Ricciardo snatches Spa podium while Verstappen’s rut of DNFs rolls on

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With the throng of Dutch fans making the quick trip to Spa to support Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, they were instead left to watch the teenager incur another retirement in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix while teammate Daniel Ricciardo again seized the opportunity at his disposal for a surprise podium finish.

Verstappen had his sixth retirement in 12 races this season in the Renault-powered, TAG Heuer-badged Red Bull just on Lap 8. He slowed on course and exited La Source, then limping up the hill through Eau Rouge before parking on the side of the track, driver’s right – game over.

“I’m very disappointed. I can’t believe it keeps happening. Six times this year. Fifty percent retirement,” Verstappen lamented to NBCSN’s Will Buxton post-race. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe these things happen. I’m competing against Fernando (Alonso) in terms of retirements.

Ricciardo, quite by contrast, parlayed Verstappen’s retirement and Kimi Raikkonen’s 10-second stop-and-go penalty for failing to slow down in a yellow flag zone into another podium finish himself.

Following a restart from the Safety Car period when Sahara Force India teammates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon clashed, Ricciardo and Raikkonen swallowed Valtteri Bottas at the end of the Kemmel Straight, in a move reminiscent of Mika Hakkinen’s famous overtake on Michael Schumacher in the 2000 race where Ricardo Zonta got swallowed wholely.

Ricciardo then pulled away from Raikkonen the rest of the race by several seconds to score the surprise podium result.

“That was huge. Max dropped out early. I know it’s full of Dutchies. Thanks for hanging around – we all do!” Ricciardo said on the podium.

“Kimi had a penalty so we got into fourth. Had good mid-race pace, then the Safety Car came at the right time. We had an opportunity and great to capitalize on it with Valtteri on the restart.”

The podium is Ricciardo’s sixth of the year, matching Verstappen’s DNF number.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.