British GP Paddock Notebook – Thursday

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If I were to say to you “name five classic circuits in F1”, you’d probably say Spa, Monza, Suzuka, Monaco and Silverstone. Therefore, when it comes to one of these grands prix, it is always a special event.

This weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone is set to be a thrilling one as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton go head-to-head. Rosberg may have the championship lead, but can Lewis make home advantage count this weekend?

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

Thursday is media day in Formula 1, so we got a chance to speak with the drivers and get their thoughts on a number of topics.

  • Valtteri Bottas spoke to NBC Sports yesterday about Kimi Raikkonen’s motivation and the possible loss of Monza from Formula 1.
  • The MotorSportsTalk writing team made its predictions ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.
  • Esteban Gutierrez was honest about Sauber’s chances in 2014, saying “it cannot get much worse”.
  • Ferrari announced that Haas Automation – owned by Gene Haas – has joined the team as a sponsor, thus opening the door for a technical partnership between the two upon Haas Formula’s entry to F1 in 2016.
  • Former Caterham team principal Cyril Abiteboul has returned to Renault.
  • We preview this weekend’s race, looking at the main talking points for the weekend.
  • Jenson Button has revealed the helmet he will be wearing for this weekend’s race.

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Silverstone usually marks the first race where people begin to look forward to the next season. Most notably, the older drivers on the grid – Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen – are both coming under scrutiny. Quite whether both will be in F1 next season is unclear, but Kimi has suggested that 2015 will be his last before quitting… again.

So maybe it’s better that we look at the younger drivers. Esteban Gutierrez has had a miserable season so far, yet he was surprisingly upbeat during his media session. He was very honest about the car, joking that the best part was how strong it was when he crashed. Adrian Sutil was also in good spirits, but both were quick to say how great a loss Monza would be to Formula 1 should Bernie Ecclestone’s threat turn into a reality.

We also had the chance to speak to American youngster Conor Daly this morning. The GP2 driver spoke widely about his fight to keep racing, his hopes for the future and the possibility of an IndyCar drive in the future. We will be bringing you the full interview soon on MotorSportsTalk.

This afternoon, we sat down with Sergio Perez for a chat about his career and current place at Force India. After such a rough ride in 2013, it is great to see a young driver back fighting at the front and impressing many within F1. You can read it later today on MST.

Finally, FIA race director Charlie Whiting spoke to the media this evening about the changes made for 2014 and the recent decisions taken by the World Motor Sport Council. Unsurprisingly, standing starts, double points and the engine noise came up, but he did reveal that many of the changes that have been deemed unpopular were suggested and supported wholeheartedly by the teams.

Tomorrow will see the drivers take to the track for free practice one and two. To find out how to watch these sessions live with NBC Sports, click here.

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.”