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Ricciardo always confident of rebuffing late Bottas charge at Suzuka

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Daniel Ricciardo always felt confident of holding on to third place in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix despite a late charge from Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, giving Red Bull its seconds straight double-podium in Formula 1.

Ricciardo started third at Suzuka, but slipped back to fifth on the opening lap as teammate Max Verstappen and Force India’s Esteban Ocon battled past.

Ricciardo was able to overtake Ocon with a brave move around the outside at Turn 1 before enduring quite a lonely race, only to be caught by Bottas on a reverse strategy in the closing stages.

A Virtual Safety Car helped stall Bottas’ charge, with Ricciardo then having the pace to finish a second clear at the checkered flag for Red Bull.

“Overall the race today was a thumbs up for me. At the start of the weekend I said I wanted to get a podium in Suzuka and I got it,” Ricciardo said.

“I need to look back at the start and the actual getaway as that was what cost me the place to Max and Ocon. The first 100 meters could have been better but otherwise the race was pretty lonely in third place. As fun as this track is on one lap it’s tricky to do much in the race and very hard to follow another car.

“In the end it was actually nice to have some pressure from Valtteri to keep me pushing all the way to the finish. I felt confident I could keep third place in the closing laps if I drove cleanly and hit all the apexes, which is what I did.

“It’s my ninth podium of the season which is a new record for me and to be in the position that we are now makes me pretty happy. It’s really encouraging for the team to have another double podium, both cars are getting to the finish reliably now and we are also quick.

“We should be able to put up a good fight in Austin and Mexico and if we can keep this rolling into 2018 then absolutely we should be looking pretty good.”

With Verstappen finishing second, Red Bull’s Suzuka result marked the first time it has scored back-to-back podiums in the V6 hybrid era that started in 2014.

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.