Poor start ruined race – Ricciardo

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Daniel Ricciardo said his Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was spoiled by a poor start.

“We had a good grid spot but couldn’t get the car off the line,” said the Toro Rosso driver, who lost seven spots from ninth on the grid when the lights went out.

“Our starts have been a bit hit and miss this year. The last few have been good but today was a miss. We got swamped on the way to turn one and in the end I went wide to avoid a collision – though [Jean-Eric Vergne] and myself may have had some light contact.”

Ricciardo ended the first lap in 16th place and he was still there when the checkered flag fell 54 laps later.

“If we start in the top ten and stay there on the first lap we have the ability to race and defend a good position,” he said, “but if we’re out of sequence it’s hard.”

Ricciardo’s poor start meant the team had to change their original strategy plan. “Coming into the race the nominal strategy was to attempt a one-stopper, albeit with the hedge of pushing on the first stint and seeing how far we could go with the tires,” he explained.

“One consequence of getting away poorly was to come out of the mix behind Esteban Gutierrez. He was on the prime tire and as we’ve seen in recent races, the Saubers have really good straight line speed. I couldn’t get past and sitting behind him we weren’t really making good use of the tires.

“At that point I asked if we could go onto plan B and the next lap I was called into the pits. A two-stopper was the way forward but ultimately it didn’t improve our situation much.”

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”