Ricciardo: Gap to Mercedes bigger than expected

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Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo has been left feeling frustrated after Mercedes once again dominated practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.

The race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend is the first in Europe this season, and will see the introduction of a number of updates on the cars from every team. As a result, it was seen as an opportunity for Red Bull to cut the significant gap to Mercedes at the front of the field.

However, Ricciardo is still frustrated by Mercedes’ advantage after the German team dominated both practice sessions on Friday in Spain.

“It’s nice not to have gone backwards during the short break and I think we have shown improvement,” he said. “We want to close the gap to Mercedes but they don’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down! They are a little bit far away.

“I hoped we would probably close the gap a bit more,” he continued. “Today was too far. We are trying to pull them back, but we seem to be in a solid third place today.

“It would be nice to fight for a win soon, but for now it seems that thirds are the best we can do.”

Red Bull’s efforts were not helped by a problem on Sebastian Vettel’s car that meant the defending Formula 1 world champion could complete just four laps on Friday.

“It’s not great that Seb wasn’t running,” Ricciardo said. “Two cars means twice the amount of feedback for the team and you don’t learn so much from one when you are trying new parts, but at least we got some good data. The short runs and long runs were both okay today.”

Barring a mechanical problem or an on track incident, it is difficult to see Mercedes being stopped this weekend. However, Ricciardo is doing all that he can to put himself in a position to pick up the pieces should disaster strike for the Silver Arrows.

Position of F1 start lights altered to compensate for safety halo

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The position of start lights will be altered on Formula One tracks this season, in a bid to ensure the drivers’ line of vision is not impeded by the controversial halo protection device.

The halo is a titanium structure introduced this year in a bid to ramp up driver safety, forming a ring around the cockpit top. It is designed to protect the drivers’ head from loose debris and offer better safety during eventual collisions.

Although drivers largely understand the need for it, very few like it. They are worried it impedes visibility, it looks ugly and also that fans will no longer be able to identify a driver properly from his race helmet. Drivers also take longer to climb in and out of their cars.

Formula One’s governing body has addressed concerns and asked every circuit “to make the lights at a standard height above the track,” FIA race director Charlie Whiting said.

“Pole position seems to be the worst case scenario with the halo,” Whiting added at the season-opening Australian GP. “Maybe the driver can’t quite see the lights, or see only half of them, and he might have to move his head too much.”

The new start lights were positioned lower for Friday’s first two practice sessions at Albert Park. Drivers were also allowed the rare chance to rehearse grid starts at the end of both sessions.

“We haven’t normally allowed practice starts on the grid here because it’s quite a tight timetable,” Whiting said. “What I thought would be a good idea was to give the driver sight of those lights, rather than for the first time on Sunday evening.”

A repeat set of lights has been moved from its usual position halfway up the grid to a more convenient position to the left.

“Those repeat lights were normally halfway up the grid, and they were fitted round about 2009, when the rear wings became higher on the cars,” Whiting said. “But now the wings have been lowered, there’s no need for those halfway up the grid.”