‘A dream victory’ for Daniel Ricciardo in Belgium

2 Comments

Daniel Ricciardo has called his victory at today’s Belgian Grand Prix a “dream” after pouncing on an intra-team clash at Mercedes to claim his third win of the season.

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is one of the most famous and popular tracks on the calendar, making any win particularly memorable. Speaking after the race today, Ricciardo made no secret of his delight after taming Spa to beat Nico Rosberg and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas to the flag.

“Yeah, I guess so,” he said when asked if winning was a dream result. “You dream of… there’s a few on the calendar that stand out more than others, and Spa is one of them.

“To be honest, any win is special in Formula 1.”

Ricciardo took the lead of the race when Rosberg pitted for repairs following his clash with teammate Lewis Hamilton, and never looked back, seeing off the German’s advances at the end.

“The first part of the race, we had pretty good pace, and I think on lap one I had the inside of Alonso in turn five, but I locked up and went off so he got me back,” Ricciardo explained. “I was able to get in front a few laps later, and then Seb looked like he just dropped a wheel on the astroturf, exit of turn ten, obviously a bit of rain overnight so it was still a bit slippery.

“Nico came in for a front wing change, and we were able to get into the lead. The pace was pretty good, Red Bull are happy with what we’re doing. The consistency is there.

“It was just really up to me at the end, trying to stay consistent, and keep focus.”

Ricciardo’s stock in Formula 1 has risen considerably this season, where he has been one of the breakout stars. This result sees him draw closer to Hamilton in the drivers’ championship, with the gap now standing at 35 points with seven rounds remaining.

The result will come as something of a welcome surprise to Red Bull, who had originally said that this weekend was about “damage limitation”.

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.”