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.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.