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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.”

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.”

Helmut Marko calls for simple, noisy, cheap independent F1 engine

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Red Bull Formula 1 advisor Helmut Marko wants to see the sport introduce a new, independent engine supply that is simple, noisy and cheap so that teams are not reliant on manufacturer partners to race.

Red Bull has threatened to quit F1 on several occasions over a lack of independent engine supplier, having been hamstrung by partner Renault’s issues through the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

While the team still races with a Renault power unit, it has been rebadged under watch partner TAG Heuer.

F1 team bosses are currently working with the sport’s new owner, Liberty Media, and officials from a number of manufacturers not on the grid to define what engine specification should be used upon the expiration of the current regulation set at the end of 2020.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Marko – pictured above with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen – thought it essential that an independent engine supplier is brought to work in the sport, believing that the power unit they provide should be noisier, cheaper and simpler than the current V6 turbo hybrids used.

“The latest must be 2021 that an independent engine supplier comes into F1,” Marko told the official Formula 1 website.

“This is more than necessary. And the engine has to be simple, noisy and on the cost side below 10 million.

“We are talking about a much less sophisticated engine to what we have now – a simple racing engine.

“There are enough companies around that could supply. So we expect from the new owners together with the FIA to find a solution at the latest by the end of this season.

“If that doesn’t happen, our stay in F1 is not secured.”

Red Bull made its F1 debut back in 2005 after taking over Jaguar, and has since won four drivers’ titles and four constructors’ championships, all coming between 2010 and 2013.

Mixed emotions for Ricciardo after run to fourth in Chinese GP

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Daniel Ricciardo was left with mixed emotions after finishing fourth in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, losing out on a podium to Red Bull Formula 1 teammate Max Verstappen late on.

Red Bull entered this weekend’s race uncertain of its chances after lagging far behind Ferrari and Mercedes in Australia, and struggled to put up much of a fight in qualifying, with Ricciardo finishing a distant fifth.

Damp conditions at the start of the race played into the RB13’s favor, with Ricciardo and Verstappen running in the top three early on, only for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to battle past both in pursuit of leader Lewis Hamilton.

Ricciardo was left chasing Verstappen, who was struggling to manage his tires late on, leading to a frantic battle between the two Red Bull drivers in the closing stages.

Verstappen put up a robust defense to keep Ricciardo back, clinching Red Bull’s 100th podium finish in the process and leaving his Australian teammate slightly disappointed.

“I have mixed emotions. It’s obviously disappointing to miss out on the podium as it was so close today but as a team it’s a good result to finish third and fourth,” Ricciardo said after the race.

“I lost a lot of time in the first stint as I struggled to keep my front tyres alive and that pretty much put us out of a podium position. After the first pit stop I had good balance and speed which meant I could claw some time back and close the gap to the leaders.

“Towards the end of the race I could see that Max was struggling with his tyres but as soon as I got close to him I also began to struggle with mine. The team let us race but even though I was in the DRS zone I was not really close enough to pull off a convincing move.

“I had a look but the inside lines were still quite slippery into the hairpin and I was honestly never really close enough to make a move stick. It was also quite noticeable that the DRS effect is far less on the cars this year which didn’t help.

“As a team we should be pleased with the result and we learnt a lot today but we still have some work to do to close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari.”

Verstappen charges from 16th to P3 in China, early laps like a video game

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Max Verstappen produced one of the outstanding displays of Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th on the grid to finish third, scoring Red Bull’s 100th podium finish in Formula 1.

Verstappen qualified 19th on Saturday due to an engine issue on his Red Bull RB13, but started 16th following a handful of grid penalties for the cars around him.

With moves reminiscent of his charge through the pack in Brazil last year, Verstappen scythed through the field on the opening lap, rising from 16th to seventh.

Verstappen ran as high as second after passes on Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo on slick tires, but could not stop Sebastian Vettel from taking the position back later in the race, leaving him to settle for third.

“Yeah it was very challenging. I think lap one I passed nine cars, so yeah not too bad,” Verstappen said.

When asked if the first lap felt like a video game, Verstappen said: “More or less. It felt a bit like that. I was very happy about that.

“Then afterwards I think it was a very good race. I didn’t have a lot of track time with the car balance from yesterday because of qualifying yesterday, I was basically nursing the car to the finish.

“Of course [I’m] very happy to be on the podium. I didn’t expect that at all, starting 16th.”

While it did not quite match the lofty heights of his charge to the podium in Brazil last year, Verstappen said the race would definitely rank in the top five of his career.

“I always find it difficult to compare but it’s definitely one of the best. Of course I’m very happy with it,” Verstappen said.

“Looking back to last year, obviously a victory is very special, one of my best for the moment, and Brazil was also very nice.

“But this is definitely in my top five.’