Ricciardo runs on his own en route to first ’17 podium at Spain

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There seemed to be three races in one in today’s Spanish Grand Prix. There was the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel for the win, the intense midfield battle between five or six teams for the lower points, and the singular drive of Daniel Ricciardo on his own for what became his first podium of 2017.

The Australian has had an unhappy start to the season with fourth, fifth and two DNFs thus far in the opening four races. An early brake issue took him out of the race early in Sochi, the previous Grand Prix, and resigned him to being a spectator rather early on.

Today in Barcelona, Ricciardo only qualified sixth but inherited third as a result of Valtteri Bottas’ engine issue and the contact between Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen that took them out of the race.

So it was, then, that Ricciardo was more than a minute behind the top two but the only other car on the lead lap after 66 laps in Barcelona.

There was no podium “shoey” but Ricciardo was relieved to take what he could get and finally have a result of note this year.

“It feels good. We had a little bit of fortune today with Valtteri stopping. We were fourth otherwise,” Ricciardo said on the podium.

“For now, we’ll take all we can. It’s so nice to be on the podium again.”

Red Bull’s chassis seemed stronger in Spain but with Renault (badged as TAG Heuer for this team) not having an engine update for several more races at least, the power deficit is stretched over the length of a Grand Prix.

Verstappen, whose Spanish Grand Prix race defense went away on the first lap, said Red Bull has more work to do if it is to close that gap to Mercedes and Ferrari ahead of them.

“We still need to be faster. With three cars retiring from the top three teams, people end up on the podium,” Verstappen told NBCSN’s Will Buxton. “We’ll see in Monaco. We need to improve.”

Hamilton hails ‘greatest day’ after USGP victory, Mercedes title win

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Lewis Hamilton made no secret of his jubilation after taking a giant step towards his fourth Formula 1 championship win with victory in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix that also saw Mercedes clinch the constructors’ title.

Hamilton recovered from an early pass by F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel to take his sixth victory on American soil, five of which have come at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, to extend his lead to 66 points.

With just 75 left on offer this season, Hamilton needs just one top-five finish in the final three races to clinch his fourth world title, with the enormity of the victory not being lost on the Mercedes driver.

“Today has been amazing. It’s been the greatest day,” Hamilton told NBCSN after the race.

“I woke up a bit tired, felt the rain, then was like, ‘What the hell?’ But I didn’t mind. I won here in the rain in the past. Then it dried up, clear blue skies, amazing opening at the beginning of the GP.

“I lost first place into Turn 1. It was OK. That first section, we got through there, and it felt very reminiscent of 2012: ‘Game on. You have to save the tires’, and he wasn’t doing that. I kind of kept my cool.”

“I saw I got a good exit of Turn 1, this was the lap and it was. His tires were dropping off anyway.”

Hamilton’s victory saw Mercedes wrap up its fourth consecutive F1 constructors’ title with three races to spare, with the Briton having played a key part in each of its successes.

“I’m so proud of this team. Big congratulations to the guys, people don’t know the amount of work they do,” Hamilton said.

“It’s over 1,500 people in two factories, so much brainpower and a lot of people to manage to extract the best from each of those.

“To come into a new era of car and perform as we have. There’s been a newfound love within the team. Ferrari, we want to beat them, thrash them.

“So they put more hours of working in to do that. That’s for all their hard work.”