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F1 2016 Driver Review: Max Verstappen

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Max Verstappen

Team: Red Bull Racing/Toro Rosso
Car No.: 33
Races: 21
Wins: 1
Podiums (excluding wins): 6
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 204
Laps Led: 42
Championship Position: 5th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

After such an impressive rookie season in Formula 1 last year, the sky appeared to be the limit for Max Verstappen – but few seriously thought he would go stratospheric as quickly as he did in 2016.

The Dutchman was always bound to make the move up to Red Bull’s senior F1 operation one day, but was given an early promotion as Daniil Kvyat’s meltdown in Sochi proved to be the excuse the team needed to make the switch.

Verstappen then delivered one of the shocks of the season by winning his very first race with Red Bull, picking up the pieces when Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg crashed into each other and his team put Daniel Ricciardo on a dud strategy. The level of maturity and confidence he showed in the closing stages to fend off Kimi Raikkonen as he did was far beyond his 18 years.

The year was filled with similarly excellent displays from Verstappen, most notably in Brazil when he went on a late rampage with a fresh set of wet tires, taking 11 places in the space of 15 laps with some daring moves. It’s a drive that is already being talked about in the same breath as Michael Schumacher in Spain in 1996, or Ayrton Senna’s wet-wonders in the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix.

However, there is still room for improvement for Verstappen. His qualifying form still needs work, having lost convincingly to Ricciardo in that head-to-head, and he still has a few rookie errors in races to iron out (Monaco and Spa come to mind). That said, the excitement Verstappen brings to the grid cannot be understated. Let’s see what more he can do through 2017.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

The dynamic Dutchman was one of the stories of the season. You know the background by now; called up by Red Bull after Daniil Kvyat’s rough start, the epic win on team debut in Spain, the season-long spat with Kimi Raikkonen, and then that save and that drive in the rain in Brazil.

Max Verstappen’s 2016 season featured some incredible highlights. Yet it is also true that we must look at it as one of being a 19-year-old sophomore driver, who despite his undoubted World Championship-winning potential is still a driver with things to learn and areas to improve.

The most obvious is his race craft. Too often he pushed or exceeded the boundaries of normal racing lines and drew the ire of his competitors for it. The second is his attitude, which will develop with age. When you’re 18 or 19, you tend to care less and go about things with a cavalier attitude. I seem to remember Red Bull’s last “wunderkind,” Sebastian Vettel, being perceived as petulant at times when he didn’t get his way, and Verstappen was at times as well. But for sure he’ll get better as he gets older, and he’s already this good this early.

Daniel Ricciardo beat Verstappen 11-6 in qualifying and 8-6 in races where both finished. It was a great year for Verstappen, one perhaps where the hype sometimes exceeded the reality, but still one to remember.

Robert Hight extends Funny Car victory streak to 13 seasons

Photo: Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery
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MORRISON, Colo. (AP) Robert Hight beat Tommy Johnson Jr. on Sunday in the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway to extend his Funny Car victory streak to 13 seasons.

Hight topped Johnson with a 3.995-second pass at 317.57 mph in a Chevrolet Camaro SS for his 38th career victory.

“We definitely struggled through the first few rounds and we were lucky to get those round wins, but I have a great team who figured things out and helped get me to the winner’s circle,” Hight said. “It’s definitely a long-time coming and we hadn’t had much luck, but today we had some luck and we hope this continues throughout the Western Swing.”

Antron Brown won in Top Fuel, Drew Skillman in Pro Stock, and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Brown edged teammate and No. 1 qualifier Leah Pritchett with a 3.792 at 319.82. He has three victories this season to push his career total to 64.

Skillman raced to his second straight victory and the fifth of his career, beating points leader Bo Butner with a 6.916 run at 198.15 in a Camaro.

Krawiec topped Matt Smith with a 7.145 at 188.28. The Harley-Davidson rider has two victories this season and 38 overall.

Sauber confirms Matsushita for Hungary test as well

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Honda junior driver Nobuhiro Matsushita will have a run with Sauber F1 Team on the second day of the Hungarian Grand Prix post-race week test, in the team’s C36 chassis.

Sauber’s engine selection for 2018 is up in the air. While the team announced a switch from year old Ferraris to Hondas, this was done under prior team principal Monisha Kaltenborn and rumors have persisted the deal may be off, or wasn’t fully done in the first place.

That Matsushita is running at this test for his first day in an F1 car – Gustav Malja will run on day one – could indicate the Honda switch isn’t yet a dead topic.

“When I was four years old, I was fascinated by Michael Schumacher, watching him racing in Formula 1. Since then my dream was to become a Formula 1 driver,” he said. “I am very excited about my first Formula 1 test and I am really looking forward to driving the Sauber C36-Ferrari at the Hungaroring – it is a great opportunity for me. I hope it will be a productive day for the team as well as for myself, so that I can learn as much as possible. I would like to thank the Sauber F1 Team for making this happen.”

New team boss Frederic Vasseur, formerly of Renault, gave his take on the test.

“I am pleased that Nobuharu has this great opportunity. He deserves the experience of his first test in a Formula 1 car. Ever since his debut in Formula 2 with ART Grand Prix, I have been following his progress closely, and have watched him advance his performance from year to year. With this Formula 1 test, he comes one step closer to his dream of becoming an F1 driver one day.”

Renault confirms Robert Kubica will test in Hungary

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Renault Sport F1 Team has confirmed Robert Kubica will make his return to a current Formula 1 car in the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test, which will only continue to fuel the hype train for a possible race return.

The Pole has undertaken two tests in recent weeks with older cars but this day in the Renault R.S.17 will provide the team a chance to evaluate him in current machinery to gauge his race level fitness.

It’s a story that has got the F1 world buzzing in recent weeks as Kubica, injured in a rally accident before the 2011 season, has made a comeback to restart his racing career.

Poor Nicholas Latifi, also confirmed for the test that runs the Tuesday and Wednesday after the Hungarian Grand Prix, will be undoubtedly overlooked as a result.

Jolyon Palmer will race in Hungary this weekend at least but whether the Brit continues beyond the summer break that follows afterwards remains a question mark.

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.