Getty Images

Verstappen shifts from anger to dominance in Mexico (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

A week after getting a five-second time penalty that knocked him off the podium in Austin, and a year after a five-second time penalty that also cost him a podium in Mexico City, Max Verstappen responded in the best way possible with an utterly crushing third career Grand Prix win in today’s Mexican Grand Prix.

As he did in Sepang earlier this month for his first win of the 2017 season, the Red Bull driver seized his opportunity early in the race and then checked out from there to not be headed.

Verstappen started second and avoided a similar pitfall as plagued him in Singapore, when he got caught up in the Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari teammate contact on the run down to Turn 1 under the lights, in the rain there.

Today, he made it past Vettel through the Turn 1, 2 and 3 complex and was clear enough of both Vettel and Hamilton by the end of the complex to set sail from the end of the first lap. Vettel, with wing damage and Hamilton, with a puncture, both pitted and Verstappen had the lead from there.

Valtteri Bottas moved into second and Esteban Ocon into third as a result of the first lap chaos, and neither driver – nor their Mercedes and Force India cars – had the measure of the Renault-powered Red Bull the rest of the race.

Verstappen explained the start when speaking to world feed interviewer David Coulthard shortly after the checkered flag.

“The start was very crucial. I went around the outside and it worked out well. I looked after the tires. Performed early in the race. Big thanks to Red Bull otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible. After last week, this is a perfect race,” he said.

The 20-year-old Dutchman expanded on it in a further post-race interview with NBCSN’s Will Buxton, noting how he funneled anger both from losing a podium last week, then losing the pole on Saturday into his dominant drive on Sunday.

“It’s great. Especially after last week. I was so motivated to show these things today,” he told NBCSN. “That’s made it even better to be honest.

“I was maybe a bit angry. But controlled angry. It’s great to have such a great car and control the whole race.”

In fact the only thing Verstappen had to worry about was Renault’s reliability, as the manufacturer endured something of a nightmare weekend. Power unit issues took Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and both Toro Rosso drivers, Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley out of the race.

Verstappen said his power unit was turned down and that took that variable out of play.

“Yes (I was nervous)… because I saw one engine catch fire in front of me!” he laughed.

“But we turned it down quite a lot. I had no issues luckily.”

After a run of seven retirements through the opening 14 races through Singapore, Verstappen’s now turned in a four-race run of first, second, fourth and first in the last four races to score 80 points over that time period.

He’s still sixth in the championship but at 30 points back of Raikkonen with two races to play, a top-five points position is still salvageable.

Also coincidentally, Verstappen’s third win comes after Red Bull’s third successive drop of Daniil Kvyat from its program. The first came at Spain last year when the two were switched between Toro Rosso and Red Bull, and his Malaysian win came after Kvyat was temporarily benched to allow Gasly his debut. Now, this win’s come after Kvyat’s final dropping, with Gasly and Hartley in at Toro Rosso until the end of 2017 and quite likely into 2018.

IndyCar star Scott Dixon to test skills on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Scott Dixon will be the latest IndyCar driver to enter the realm of reality TV when he auditions in Indianapolis next week for “American Ninja Warrior.”

The four-time IndyCar champion, nicknamed “The Iceman,” thought it sounded fun when he was approached with the idea of trying out. As the competition has drawn near, Dixon is wondering what he got himself into.

“I feel a lot of pressure on this one,” Dixon told The Associated Press before heading to this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. “When it got to be about a month away, I figured I should start training for it, and it’s pretty hard stuff.”

IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan all auditioned for the show, which follows competitors as they tackle a series of obstacle courses in qualifying rounds across the country. None of IndyCar’s contestants advanced out of the first round and neither did NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Dixon’s appearance comes about the same time the Game Show Network has Sebastien Bourdais as a guest host for “Daily Draw” for the entire week leading into the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Most recently, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly teamed to finish fourth on “The Amazing Race,” and James Hinchcliffe was a runner-up last year on “Dancing With The Stars.” Castroneves is a former “DWTS” winner.

Dixon, the 2008 winner of the Indianapolis 500 who ranks fourth on IndyCar’s all-time wins list, is accustomed to success. But the New Zealander not so sure he’s going to become the next great ninja. Most of his fitness work focuses on endurance training, and preparing for the obstacle course has taken Dixon out of his element.

“It’s not my wheelhouse,” he said. “This is agility kind of stuff and I’m looking forward to the process. I’m not looking forward so much to the failure, because it’s going to happen at some point, so I guess I just have to make the most of it and enjoy the experience.”

Dixon was famously robbed at gunpoint in the drive-thru of a Taco Bell last year hours after he won the pole for the Indy 500. Asked if his ninja training will have him better prepared should that happen again, he did not think so.

“I suppose if I run away it would help,” Dixon said. “But I don’t exactly have a ninja toolkit to get me through that situation.”