Lotus pleased with progress, eyeing more points in Monaco

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After such a terrible start to the 2014 season, Lotus finally found its feet and scored some points at the Spanish Grand Prix thanks to Romain Grosjean’s eighth place finish.

However, technical director Nick Chester has no plans of stopping there, and believes that the tight and twisty nature of the circuit for next weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix will suit the E22 car.

“Monaco is a bit of a strange place – a one off – so it’s always dangerous to assume your car will be good there,” he said. “But I think it will suit the E22 and we should go fairly well.

“We’ll also be bringing some specific parts aimed at giving us more downforce at what is the highest downforce track of the year. Other new parts will help tune the car for the bumpy and low speed track characteristics.”

The team missed the first test in Jerez in January, and has been on the back foot ever since. The problems were exacerbated by engine supplier Renault starting its own development late, but the right steps have been taken.

“The parts we’ve tested so far look good and we’ll also have a new fuel from Total which should further improve power and driveability,” Chester explained. “There will also be a small modification to the cooling system and there are other aerodynamic developments aimed at making the car more stable.”

Grosjean’s run to eighth in Spain finally got the team off the mark in 2014, but teammate Pastor Maldonado is still yet to finish inside the top ten.

The Venezuelan driver has won few plaudits this season after a number of unavoidable incidents, but if the pace of the E22 is there, he could soon join Grosjean in the points.

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.”