Monaco Grand Prix: Dominant Ricciardo Takes Pole with New Lap Record

Image courtesy of the Red Bull content pool.

Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo has claimed his second ever pole position in Formula One, setting a new lap record around the circuit where he incidentally also claimed his first.

Red Bull were always expected to fly around Monaco and it has certainly been an extremely impressive weekend so far for the team – and Ricciardo in particular – save for Max Verstappen’s crash in FP3. Ricciardo was fastest in every single practice session and every segment of qualifying, breaking the lap record numerous times before ultimately taking pole with a 1:10.810, in doing so becoming the only driver to break into the 1:10s.

The Australian’s nearest competitor was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. In the dying moments of the session Vettel managed to improve and close the gap to P1, but he was still over two tenths away from Ricciardo, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton another two tenths back in P3.

Kimi Raikkonen will perhaps have been hoping for more than P4; he starts ahead of fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas and best-of-the-rest Esteban Ocon, who put in a great performance in the Force India to go P6. McLaren will no doubt be glad to have gotten at least one car into the top ten  – Fernando Alonso will start tomorrow’s race in P7 ahead of Sainz, Perez, Gasly and Hulkenberg – because it looked for a while in the early stages of the weekend as though they may be out-performed by Toro Rosso and their Honda engine. The other McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne, however, failed to make it through to Q3 and starts P12.

Image courtesy of the Red Bull content pool.

Sergey Sirotkin’s performance mustn’t be underplayed as well. He may be starting P13, but he qualified a huge eight tenths ahead of his team-mate Lance Stroll, who has been struggling all weekend and complained of a loose head-rest and a general lack of traction in Q1. He starts down in P18.

Home favourite Charles Leclerc qualified P14 ahead of an out-of-sorts Romain Grosjean, who qualified P15 but carries a three-place grid penalty because of the crash he caused in Spain.

Brendon Hartley was my surprise of qualifying, and unfortunately not in a good way. The Kiwi had initially shown very strong pace in free practice – he was P7 in FP3 – and seemed to be on par with team-mate Pierre Gasly, but for some reason he failed to convert that in qualifying and ultimately ended up P16 ahead of Marcus Ericsson.

Rounding out the grid are a frustrated Kevin Magnussen in P19 – another surprise given that he finished sixth last time out in Spain – and Max Verstappen, who didn’t even take part in qualifying because of his FP3 crash and will be receiving a somewhat redundant five-place grid penalty because of a change of gearbox.

It is hard to look past anyone but Daniel Ricciardo for the win tomorrow. It’s one of the great cliches of Formula One that it’s impossible to overtake around Monaco but, at the same time, I’m sure there will be some interesting battles further down the order that will be worth keeping an eye on.

Mamma Mia, a Dramatic Finale in Bahrain

Sebastian Vettel secured his second consecutive victory of the season, after a dramatic finish in Bahrain Grand Prix. The German, four time world champion, withstands Bottas pressure on the final ten laps of the race and scored 25 points for Scuderia Ferrari.

Ferrari missed the chance to have two drivers on the podium, because an amateur mistake forced the Finn to stop his car and retire in the pit lane. The left-rear tyre hadn’t changed, Kimi pulled away, injured the leg of one of the mechanics and immediately Ferrari told him to stop his car. It was the second unsafe release from the Italians this weekend.

The mechanic was taken to the hospital, Ferrari confirmed a broken leg, a shinbone and fibula fracture.

Valtteri Bottas had a very good start, he placed his Mercedes between the two Ferraris and was trying to pressure Vettel for the first position. Lewis Hamilton, recovered from ninth place, which he started after a five place grid penalty, and finished third.

The British champion, passed three cars at the same time in one corner, a move that we will surely remember for many years.

Dramatic finale

With 10 laps to go, Bottas was second behind Sebastian Vettel, the gap between the two drivers was about six seconds. The Finn, had fresher set of tyres, he was on medium tyres, whilst Vettel informed by his team to change his strategy and go from two stops to one stop strategy. The German, pitted two laps earlier than the Finn, he was on the softs for 39 laps.

Mercedes assumed that Vettel will pit again, they informed Hamilton that when the German will re-join will be behind him. Ferrari took the risk to let Vettel on the track until the end of the race and Bottas received an order to push as hard as he could for the first place.

The gap between those two was dropping rapidly, Bottas entered DRS rang with two laps to go, he attempted to attack Vettel but he was not close enough.

Lewis Hamilton, was not able to be close to the two drivers, finished third 6.5 seconds behind Sebastian Vettel.

Disaster for Red Bull, a dreaming race for Gasly

Both Red Bull cars retired early in the race, Max Verstappen had an incident with Lewis Hamilton at the exit of Turn 1, after passing him, Max damaged his left-rear wheel, which caused a puncture. The Dutch, managed to go to the pits but retired a few meters after he re-joined the race.

Daniel Ricciardo retired shortly after Verstappen’s puncture, Daniel’s car shuts down at the exiting of Turn 8.

A race to remember for Pierre Gasly, the French finished fourth behind the Ferrari and the two Mercedes. Gasly, resisted Magnussen’s and Hulkenberg’s pressure, he secured a fantastic result for Toro Rosso at their second race with a Honda powered engine.

Second double points finish for McLaren, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne finished seventh and eighth respectively.

Kevin Magnussen scored the first points for Haas with his fifth position in Bahrain. A good race for Ericsson and Sauber as well, Marcus finished ninth and scored two points for Sauber.

It looks that this season will be different than the others, not only because Ferrari won the first two races, but mainly because the middle teams are looking very competitive. Williams and Force India are not as strong as they used to be, whilst Haas, McLaren and Renault are looking quicker and able to fight between each other for the fourth place in the championship (if not the third!)

Next stop China in one week

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Mexican Grand Prix Review, Viva Mexico

The minute of silence in respect to the people who suffered from the earthquake in the Mexico City was one of the most emotional moments in the Mexican Grand Prix. People are above everything and we should always help and support each other.

Max Verstappen took the chequered flag in Mexico, but Lewis Hamilton was the big winner of the weekend. Hamilton became the first British, F1 racing driver, with four world titles.

On Saturday, Vettel set the fastest lap in Q3 of the qualifying session and took the pole position in Mexico, followed by Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Lights out, a brave start from the young Max Verstappen who added some pressure on Vettel, took the lead after a wheel to wheel battle with Sebastian, who forced to retreat, and had to fight with Hamilton for the second position. Vettel collided with Hamilton, damaged his front wing and caused a puncture to Hamilton’s rear left tyre. Both drivers pitted and dropped down to the back of the grid.

Lewis Hamilton stuck behind Sainz’s car, whilst Vettel was pushing hard to gain position. Sebastian had to finish in the first two positions, in order to have chances for the championship in the two remaining races.

For almost 30 laps, Hamilton, couldn’t find the speed to pass Carlos Sainz’s Renault, Brendon Hartley retired on lap 31 after an engine failure, gave the chance to Mercedes to call Hamilton into the pits, whilst the race was under VSC, and fit him the super-soft tyres.

The new tyres gave the chance to Hamilton to start his counter attack and cover ground as Vettel was gaining places and was hoping for a miracle in order to get a place on the podium. The German, was far behind the first three drivers, he managed to move up to position four and placed behind Raikkonen, Bottas and Verstappen.

A few laps before the chequered flag, Hamilton asked his team if Vettel could get the second position, Mercedes’ reply was “Negative” as Bottas was second and it would be hard for anyone to take it from him.

Esteban Ocon had his chance to shine, especially after lights out, Ocon was third, but after the first pit-stop period Kimi Raikkonen moved up to the third place and forced Esteban to retreat to fourth. Ocon, had to defend his place from Vettel, but that was not easy, and the German took the fourth place. Ocon’s fifth and Perez’s seventh place, were enough to give the fourth position to Sahara Force India in the constructors’ championship.

Lance Stroll had a quiet race, took advantage of Hulkenberg’s and Ricciardo’s retirements also gained an advantage from Hamilton’s and Vettel’s collision and managed to finish sixth and score eight points for Williams.

The four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton had a tough start this season, but despite the difficulties that he faced, mainly during the first half of the season, he had the courage to fight back, and showed to everyone why he is one of the best drivers on the grid. Silverstone was the spark that led to Hamilton’s comeback and to his fourth world title (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017).

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Max Verstappen has agreed the contract with Red Bull Racing for a further three years

Max Verstappen continues to race for Red Bull Racing for a further three years. The 20-year-old Dutchman, who won this year’s Malaysian GP, is happy with the decision. “Their support, from the guys and girls in the factory through to the crew in the garage, no matter what plays out on the race track, has always been 100 per cent. We’ve also had some fun times! I’m very happy to commit further to Red Bull Racing.”
Max started his F1 journey as a part of Red Bull’s young driver programme. “Red Bull has always shown their faith and belief in me with actions; inviting me in to the young driver programme as a 16-year-old, then giving me my start in Formula One when I was just 17, and then the opportunity to race with Red Bull Racing where I had such a dream start with this team. They have always backed me and my ambition and I know we share that ambition.” He expects more successes in the future.

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The Team Principal said: “We are delighted that Max has agreed to extend his contract with Red Bull Racing. We had a phenomenal start together in Spain last year and Max has only pushed on from there. It was a great moment for the whole team to see him put the frustrations of this season behind him in taking that fantastic victory in Malaysia last month. He is pure racer, with an undeniable talent at the wheel and a rare instinct for what it takes to compete consistently at this level. Coupled with a committed work ethic and a mature approach to learning his craft that belies his years, Max is right to be hungry for success”. Christian Horner belives that Red Bull Racing is the right team for Verstappen to win the championship. “As we now look to the long term with Max he is in the best place in the sport to build a team around him to deliver our shared ambition.”

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool