Max Verstappen

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Red Bull’s Verstappen, Ricciardo see season slipping away

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) For Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, the podium is starting to look a long way off.

Mercedes and Ferrari’s tussle for wins in Formula One has left Verstappen and Ricciardo in the cold, an uncomfortable sensation for drivers who each won a race last year and were podium regulars.

And the gap to the top two teams is getting bigger.

“For us, I think, at the moment the best we can do is fifth, so that’s like a victory for us,” Verstappen said Saturday.

In qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix, Ricciardo’s fifth place downplayed the gulf between Red Bull and the leaders. Ricciardo was 1.7 seconds off pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, and more than 1.1 off Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in fourth.

Verstappen, who lit up the sport a year ago with a win in Spain on his Red Bull debut, was almost two seconds off the pace in seventh.

“As a team, we know where we have to improve, and that’s both chassis and engine,” Verstappen said. “We have to deal with it and hopefully soon we can improve it on both sides.”

Vettel’s title with Red Bull in 2013 was the last time the team could fight for regular wins, but it did manage two victories and 15 podium finishes last year, often when the dominant Mercedes team slipped up.

This campaign, Red Bull’s hopes of adding more podiums to Verstappen’s third place in China earlier this month likely rest on an anticipated package of upgrades to the car. That’s due in time for the May 14 Spanish Grand Prix.

“It will probably dictate whether we’re going to be on the podium or not” in what remains of the first half of the season, Ricciardo said. “It’s our best hope, for sure.”

Monaco apartment bet gives extra spice to race for P5 in Russia

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Remember that episode of Friends where Joey and Chandler go up against Rachel and Monica in a crazy quiz that ends in them swapping apartments for a while?

Well, Formula 1 might be doing its own version on Sunday in Russia.

With Ferrari and Mercedes over one second per lap clear of the rest of the pack, the top four positions seem settled, leaving Williams and Red Bull to battle for P5.

Red Bull has been the third-quickest team for much of the season so far, yet Williams looks more competitive in Russia, with Felipe Massa charging to sixth place in qualifying to split Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

“I predicted them to be quick here. It’s been one of their stronger circuits the last few years, and Massa’s always been pretty handy around here,” Ricciardo said of Williams.

“He got close, split Max and myself. I expect that battle to remain tomorrow. Not expecting to have the battle for the win, I think that’s between Ferrari and Mercedes, but we could have a nice little battle within ourselves for the top five.”

To add an extra twist to things, it turns out that Ricciardo, Massa and Verstappen all live inside the same apartment complex in Monaco – so why not add some extra incentive to the battle?

“I was saying whoever maybe wins our battle tomorrow can get the… Massa or Verstappen, they’ve both got pretty good-sized apartments, so maybe they can give the winner their apartment for the weekend as a bit of a token gesture!” Ricciardo joked to NBCSN after the session.

“Yeah I can give a good party and I will join,” Verstappen added.

Massa laughed before saying: “I hope I will win and I cannot give!’

The race between Red Bull and Williams may be tight, but somehow we doubt remembering that the TV guide goes to Miss Chanandeler Bong or that his job is a transpon… transponster (“that’s not even a word!”) will be much help to Ricciardo, Massa or Verstappen on Sunday.

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

Red Bull set to revamp F1 chassis in time for Spanish GP

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Red Bull is planning to revamp its Formula 1 chassis with a number of upgrades in time for the Spanish Grand Prix on May 14, according to advisor Helmut Marko.

Red Bull entered 2017 looking to take advantage of the revised technical regulations that placed a greater emphasis on aerodynamic performance, an area the team has traditionally been strong in.

While Ferrari and Mercedes have stolen a march on the field to dominate the first three races, Red Bull has been marooned as the third-fastest team, seemingly adrift from rivals either in front or behind.

“We have two problems: Renault had some [power unit] reliability issues, which have slowed them down in the development, and we didn’t deliver the chassis that we should have done,” Marko told the official Formula 1 website.

“But we are working day and night to pick up our shortcomings. We are pretty optimistic that we will make a significant step forward in Barcelona where a big change of parts is coming.

“Sometimes patience is the best virtue a driver can have.”

When asked to place a time frame on the updates, Marko said: “The chassis will be ‘revamped’ in Barcelona and Renault is planning something for Montreal.”

Despite already being 55 points off leading team Ferrari in the constructors’ championship, Marko is confident that Red Bull can cut the gap, taking inspiration from its previous fightbacks.

“When we fought for the championship with Sebastian [Vettel] against [Fernando] Alonso, we were 42 points behind still after the summer break, and won. So we are the masters of ‘catch-up’.”

“We just have to go our own way by constantly reducing the gap.”

Verstappen apologizes for Brazilians remark after Bahrain qualifying

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Max Verstappen has issued an apology after facing a backlash for his comment about Brazilians in the wake of Formula 1 qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday night.

Verstappen felt that his final qualifying run was compromised by Williams driver Felipe Massa, saying the Brazilian dived ahead of him unnecessarily on a warm-up lap that forced him to back off, cooling his tires.

When asked if he’d discussed the matter with Massa, Verstappen said: “Well, he’s a Brazilian so there’s not much to discuss.”

Massa was unimpressed by Verstappen’s comment, and took the Dutchman to one side in Bahrain to discuss what he said.

“I told him earlier today: ‘Be careful with your words because you will have a Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of year and you will have to race there. So be careful what you say’,” Massa told UOL Esporte.

“Without a doubt, it was not right to speak about Brazilians without even knowing what he was talking about.”

On Monday, Verstappen posted on his Facebook page clarifying the comment and apologizing for any offence caused.

“I feel like I need to clarify my remarks that were made after this weekend’s qualifying session,” Verstappen wrote.

“Being a passionate racer, I was very disappointed with my last stint and gave an emotional reaction that was taken out of context. By no means did I mean to insult the Brazilian people who I greatly respect and are always very nice to me when I visit the country.

“One of the highlights of my career was last year’s Brazilian GP and it was extra special to do this in the country that brought us legendary drivers such as Senna, Fittipaldi and Piquet.

“I would like to apologize to any Brazilians that feel offended and look forward to racing in your country again.”

Verstappen felt P2 was in reach before Bahrain GP brake failure

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Red Bull Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen felt he was on course to finish Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix in second place before a brake failure ended his race.

Verstappen ran fourth for Red Bull in the early part of the race before pitting on Lap 11 in a bid to get the undercut on the Mercedes drivers ahead.

While a similar tactic allowed Sebastian Vettel to move into the lead en route to his second win of the season, Verstappen ended his race in the wall after suffering a brake failure on his out lap.

“I hit the brake pedal, lost all the rear pressures, only had the fronts left and couldn’t stop the car,” Verstappen told NBCSN after the race.

“It’s very disappointing. We would have been second if we could have just run. We would have undercut the Mercedes. The car held on really well. That’s a side of motorsport I guess.”

Red Bull looked more competitive in both qualifying and the early part of the race than it did in either Australia or China, with Verstappen putting it down to the tire strengths of the RB13.

“We definitely improved the car but this track is hard on tires and our car is good on the tires,” Verstappen said.

The result marks Verstappen’s first DNF of the season following runs to fifth and third in Australia and China respectively.