Ricciardo rockets to sensational Hungarian GP victory

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Daniel Ricciardo has won a breathtaking Hungarian Grand Prix ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, battling through with a perfect strategy following rain and two safety car periods.

The Australian claimed the second Formula 1 win of his career in sensational style, battling past both Hamilton and Alonso in the final five laps of the race on fresher tires as a dud strategy forced Rosberg to settle for fourth place.

Having started from the pit lane, Hamilton produced a superb drive to battle through to P3, but has some explaining to do after repeatedly ignoring Mercedes’ calls to allow Rosberg past during the race.

A sharp rain shower hit the Hungaroring one hour before the race, forcing the drivers to start  on intermediate tires for the first time since the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. Pole-sitter Rosberg managed to make a good start and hang onto his lead as Bottas swung around the outside of Vettel at turn one to move into second place.

Lewis Hamilton’s race took a turn for the worse following his pit lane start when he hit the wall at turn two, although he did manage to keep the Mercedes going despite suffering damage to his front wing. He was soon picking up positions as though nothing had happened, but at the front, Rosberg continued to open up his lead over the field.

This was wiped out when Marcus Ericsson crashed hard at turn four on lap eight, bringing out the safety car, allowing a number of drivers to pit for fresh tires, with some – including Hamilton – risking slicks. The front four cars all pitted one lap later, and lost time as a result, handing the lead of the race to Daniel Ricciardo with Jenson Button – one of the few to fit more intermediates – in second place ahead of Felipe Massa.

The race got back underway on lap fourteen, having also accommodated for Romain Grosjean’s spin into the wall. On the intermediate tires, Button managed to get past Ricciardo and take the lead of the race as Kevin Magnussen passed Rosberg. With more rain looking less likely, McLaren told its drivers to push while they still could, but as the track dried out they had to pit just two laps after the restart for slicks.

Hamilton made a great restart, and found himself right behind Rosberg on lap fifteen having trailed by over thirty seconds before the safety car. The Briton struggled to pass Vettel for sixth place, but with fourth-placed Jean-Eric Vergne holding up Rosberg ahead, the Silver Arrows were separated by less than two seconds at one-third race distance. Ricciardo set about increasing his lead at the front over Felipe Massa, posting a series of fastest laps as the Brazilian came under pressure from Fernando Alonso.

However, Ricciardo lost his lead when the safety car came out for a second time following a huge shunt for Sergio Perez on the pit straight. The Force India ran wide and spun into the wall, bringing an end to his race. Ricciardo and Massa took to the pits, handing the lead to Alonso in the Ferrari ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne.

On the restart, Hamilton continued to hound Vettel for position as Rosberg closed on Vergne, but the championship leader opted to pit and avoid losing too much more time. Just as he did, Vettel nearly binned his Red Bull in the wall, spinning 360º and handing the position to both Hamilton and Ricciardo. The Briton stayed out, passing Vergne around the outside of turn four before the Toro Rosso driver pitted for fresh tires.

Hamilton moved into the lead of the race when Alonso stopped as Rosberg picked his way through the traffic. The Briton split the two drivers when he came out of the pits. and duly set about opening up a gap to his teammate. Rosberg managed to reel Lewis in on the option tire, but on primes, Hamilton was set to go to the end of the race without stopping again.

The Briton was told not to put any fight up to Rosberg, but did not let him past, causing Rosberg to ask why he was not being allowed through. Hamilton was told for a second time, only to go faster than Rosberg still. The German asked his team again, and was told that Lewis had been given the message.

At the front, Ricciardo started to complain of rear tire wear, so was brought into the pits on lap 54 thus handing the lead to Alonso. Ricciardo’s task was now to use the fresh option tires to catch the squabbling Mercedes drivers who were four seconds up the road.

The team bailed on Rosberg two laps later, bringing the German driver into the pits for a fresh set of option tires. He emerged in seventh place behind Kimi Raikkonen, and appeared to have waved goodbye to all hopes of winning the race.

Hamilton, on the other hand, kept pushing to reel in Alonso, but had to keep an eye on his mirrors as Ricciardo continued to charge on fresh option tires. The Red Bull driver was soon within DRS range, as was Lewis to Alonso – less than one second separated all three drivers with six laps to go.

Ricciardo tried a move on Hamilton at turn two on lap 65, but ran wide, giving the Briton some breathing space. He was soon back on the Mercedes’ tail thanks to his fresher tires. He forced Hamilton into a lock-up and found a way past with three laps to go with an incredible overtake heading into turn four.

Hamilton tried to follow him through, but was soon more occupied with Rosberg who had caught the leaders on fresh options. However, he could not find a way past and had to settle for fourth place come the line. Felipe Massa came home in fifth for Williams ahead of Kimi Raikkonen – his best result of the season – and Sebastian Vettel. Valtteri Bottas was eighth, with Jean-Eric Vergne and Jenson Button rounding out the points.

However, all of the plaudits must go to Ricciardo. Through rain, safety cars and in light of the Mercedes’ pace, he produced an epic drive to claim his second career victory and continue to show the F1 world that he has the makings of a future champion.

Grosjean: ‘Unbelievable’ to score Haas’ best F1 qualifying result in Australia

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Romain Grosjean hailed Haas’ Formula 1 qualifying performance in Australia as “unbelievable” after picking up its best Saturday result since joining the grid.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation into F1 last year, with Grosjean leading its charge through its debut campaign.

Haas enters its sophomore year in 2017 looking to build on its eighth-place finish in the constructors’ championship, and made a strong start in Australia on Saturday.

While new driver Kevin Magnussen dropped out in Q1 following an error on his hot lap, Grosjean was able to take Haas into Q3 before securing sixth place on the grid for Sunday’s season-opener.

The result marks Haas’ best qualifying result to date in F1, beating Grosjean’s run to P7 ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix last November.

“It was quite an unbelievable qualifying session for us. It’s a shame that we didn’t get Kevin there, but the car is looking good, even better than what we’ve seen recently,” Grosjean said after the session.

“We’ve made some good progress over the weekend. There’s a lot more we can understand and analyze but, generally, it’s a great start for us.

“It’s always good to start with a strong qualifying session. It tells you that if you keep improving the car, you could be in a good place very soon. If that’s our baseline, and you can fight between sixth and 10th position, where it’s so tight, it would be great to be there most of the time and enjoy some good times.

“Tomorrow’s start is a big unknown. We’ve been practicing and some have been good, others not so much. Hopefully, we’ll get the first one right tomorrow.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Daniel Ricciardo frustrated to crash out of home F1 qualifying

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Daniel Ricciardo made no secret of his frustration after crash out of Formula 1 qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, resigning himself to a 10th-place start for his home race on Sunday.

Ricciardo entered the Melbourne weekend aiming to become the first Australian to finish on the podium at his home race since the event became part of the F1 world championship in 1985.

Despite struggling with the setup on his RB13 car on Friday, Ricciardo looked poised to claim a top-five grid slot for Sunday’s race, only to lose control of his car at Turn 14 in Q3 and end the session in the wall.

“That was a tough one today. I don’t crash into the barriers often and the last place I want to do that is at home,” Ricciardo said after the session.

“But I feel I crashed for the right reason, as I was basically pushing and trying to find the limit and these things happen, so let’s say I’m not disappointed by the approach, it was just more of a frustrating outcome, starting 10th instead of being under the top five.”

Ever the optimist, Ricciardo said the difficult qualifying will only serve as greater motivation to fight back up the order and give his home fans a result to celebrate on Sunday.

“I knew the crowds would have also preferred to see me further up the grid and it would have been nice to put on a better performance than that but tomorrow is where the points are,” Ricciardo said.

“It’s a chance to create a bigger headline if I have a good race so that’s what will motivate me to do better tomorrow. I made it a bit more difficult for myself but it’s going to be alright.

“To get a good start in the race will be the key. I saved a set of ultra-softs in Q2, I know that not everyone in front of me has, so maybe that gives me a chance.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Valtteri Bottas disappointed with P3 start for Mercedes F1 debut

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Valtteri Bottas came away from qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix feeling disappointed despite securing third place on the grid for his first Formula 1 race as a Mercedes driver.

Bottas joined Mercedes over the winter following world champion Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire from racing, and made his first official race weekend appearance for the Silver Arrows on Friday.

The ex-Williams driver made a splash in qualifying by running teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel close, but was left to settle for third on the grid after finishing three-tenths of a second off the pole time.

“Third position is not ideal. In general I’m not happy with the result,” Bottas admitted after qualifying.

“But what I’m really happy about and proud about [is] what the team has done again with this car. I only saw a very small part of the preparation with the new car and the new era of Formula 1, and it’s really nice to see that all the work has paid off and we’re fighting at the very front.

“It seems to be very close this year, especially here. Myself I didn’t get any perfect laps in, so not that satisfied.

“Tomorrow’s the day that matters. It seems like in the race starts we’ve been quite strong. If we can keep that form I had in practice, and have a nice and clean race and get some really good points.”

Bottas’ best finish in Australia currently stands at fifth place in 2014 with Williams, with the Finn never qualifying any higher than sixth at Albert Park in his four previous attempts.

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Vettel: Front-row grid slot for Australia proof of Ferrari’s progress

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Sebastian Vettel believes that his charge to second place on the grid for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix acts as proof of the progress Ferrari’s Formula 1 operation has made over the winter.

Vettel arrived in Australia as one of the favorites to take pole following an impressive showing in pre-season testing, prompting three-time champion Lewis Hamilton to name Ferrari as the leading team.

Hamilton rallied in qualifying to take pole position for Mercedes, beating Vettel by two-tenths of a second, but the Ferrari driver managed to fend off Valtteri Bottas in the second Silver Arrow and clinch a front-row berth.

The result marked Ferrari’s best qualifying result since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix – Vettel’s and Ferrari’s last pole and victory in F1 – and the German was encouraged by the result.

“I think we have a good car. I think we are working well as a team,” Vettel said.

“Things are improving. Obviously it’s nice to see that things are working, the car is working. I had a mixed day yesterday, but the confidence in the car was there from testing and I think we showed that again today.”

Vettel conceded that he felt his final lap in qualifying could have been faster, but doubts it would have been enough to catch pole-sitter Hamilton.

“In the end I was not entirely happy with my lap. I was pretty happy with the end, maybe not so much with the opening of the lap where we lost a bit too much,” Vettel said.

“But I think Lewis did a very good lap. I would have loved to, but I don’t think pole was up for grabs. Tomorrow I think we can do something in the race. The car feels good, we’ve improved it so the pace should be much better than it was yesterday when we had practice.

“It’s been a big winter for us, lots of change we’ve gone through as a team in the last 12 months, and for the better. I think the team is getting stronger.

“Obviously everyone is pushing very hard and it’s not so easy to come here with a long journey to get to Australia, but I think people are fired up and we are motivated for tomorrow.

“I think it’s the first good opportunity.”