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.

Alonso would be ‘very happy’ to finish F1 career with McLaren

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Fernando Alonso says he would be “very happy” to see out his Formula 1 career with McLaren after signing a new multi-year contract with the British team, announced on Thursday.

Alonso, 36, ended speculation about his future by agreeing a new deal with McLaren, hopeful of returning to the front of the field next year when the team swaps Honda power for Renault engines.

Alonso admitted to considering options outside of F1 before agreeing to stay at McLaren, and was thought to only be chasing a one-year extension in order to be in a position to snap up a more attractive seat in the volatile 2019 market.

However, Alonso confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the deal with McLaren stretched beyond the end of next year, adding he would be content to see out his time in the sport with the team.

“I never talk about contracts, but one thing I can say is it is a long-term partnership,” Alonso said.

“I am very happy to finish my career at McLaren. So I don’t think it is going to be only one year.”

Alonso also revealed he had options with teams high up the field in F1 for 2018 just a couple of months ago, but was always leaning to staying at McLaren despite not scoring a podium with the team in almost three years.

“There were some other options in F1. In the summer there were still some options at the top teams, but my desire was to stay with McLaren,” Alonso said.

“But at that time they were in conversation with different engine suppliers, so I had to give them time to sort out their situation.

“Then McLaren opted for a Renault engine which delayed my decision, because I had to understand what Renault’s plans were for next years.

“But when I had everything on the table, everything was pretty clear.”