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Horner impressed by Verstappen’s handling of luckless run

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Red Bull Formula 1 chief Christian Horner is impressed by how Max Verstappen has dealt with a luckless first half of the 2017 season, tipping the Dutchman to bounce back after the summer break.

Verstappen has picked up just one podium finish through the first 11 rounds of the year, enduring a run of five retirements in seven races from Bahrain to Austria that has left him 50 points behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the drivers’ championship.

Verstappen’s retirements have been down to a mix of on-track incidents and mechanical issues, but Horner is impressed by the youngster’s approach through the first real difficult point of his career.

“He’s been unbelievably lucky until this point, because he has been driving at such a high level,” Horner said.

“To be taken out in Barcelona, through no fault of his own, to have had successive engine failures in Montreal and Baku, where he was in a position to certainly finish on the podium if not win the grand prix was immensely frustrating.

“But he has dealt with it incredibly well and I’m certain that after the summer break he is going to have a strong second half of the year.”

Red Bull has worked hard to cut the gap to pace-setters Mercedes and Ferrari through the opening half of the season, and Horner says the team will not relent in its bid to get on level terms until the end of the season.

“I think the team is working very well collectively. We’re getting performance on the car, we’ve got some venues coming up that hopefully will suit us and we’ll keep pushing all the way to the final race in Abu Dhabi,” Horner said.

“There is a big gap between us and the cars ahead but there are opportunities in the remaining races and we’re going to be going all out to try and achieve what we can, and obviously the lessons you learn apply to next year anyway.”

Ricciardo, Verstappen clear the air after Hungary first lap clash (VIDEO)

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Red Bull Racing teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen appear to have moved on Monday morning following the Hungarian Grand Prix, following their own first lap clash.

Verstappen was trying to pass Ricciardo on the opening lap but wound up hitting him, which knocked the Australian out of a Grand Prix on the first lap for the first time in his career.

The usually ebullient Ricciardo was understandably frustrated after the contact, telling NBCSN’s Will Buxton after the race, “It was out of my hands. Not obviously what I want. There was never a pass there. It was a mistake… there was no way as Valtteri was covering the inside. I was on my line. It doesn’t change my race. Just over ambitious… that’s youth.”

Verstappen immediately took blame when he spoke to Buxton in the post-race media bullpen.

“So yeah I think I was put in that position after Turn 1, getting pushed on the Astroturf,” he said. “We both went deep into T2. I had Bottas in front, so I locked the front, and I tried to keep it to the inside, but I kept locking locking locking and unfortunately I touched Daniel at I think the weakest point on the car in the side.

“That was very unfortunate. Of course it’s not what I want, and sorry to Daniel for that, because I think we have always had a very good relationship and race really well together. That was never my intention.”

Ricciardo then posted on Twitter Monday that he and Verstappen had talked about it and “handled the situation.” You can see those messages below.

Heat gets to some drivers at sun-soaked Hungarian Grand Prix

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Daniel Ricciardo described Max Verstappen’s driving as “amateur” after his Red Bull teammate knocked him out of the Hungarian Grand Prix, while two other drivers were involved in a post-race feud on Sunday.

With the asphalt track temperatures well over 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), the heat in Hungary seemingly got to some drivers.

German driver Nico Hulkenberg was also unhappy with Danish driver Kevin Magnussen.

With less than 10 laps to go, Hulkenberg tried to overtake him on the outside but Magnussen – who earlier this week was openly critical of three-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton’s driving during practice – shunted Hulkenberg into the grass.

“I’m all for hard racing but he was just ruthless by pushing me off track,” Hulkenberg said.

They then argued in front of the television cameras in the media area after the race, with Hulkenberg labeling him “nasty” and Magnussen aiming a profane retort back at the Renault driver.

At least those two are on different teams and don’t have to spend any time with each other.

Verstappen, who last season drew stern criticism from Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen for his somewhat reckless style, knocked Ricciardo out of the race on Turn 2 of the first lap.

Verstappen swerved into him left-to-right when going wide on the exit from a turn.

“That was amateur to say the least,” an irate Ricciardo told broadcaster Sky Sports afterward.

Verstappen, who at 19 years old is seen as the future star of the sport, seems to be more aware of his limitations these days.

While last season he was unapologetic over his daring, sometimes abrasive driving style, he seems more mature this season.

Ricciardo earned no points on Sunday. But he did earn something rare in F1: an apology from Verstappen.

“It is never my intention to hit anyone, but especially not your teammate. Especially with the relationship I have with Daniel, it’s always really good and we can always have a laugh,” he said. “I apologize to Daniel for that and also to the team because we could have scored some good points here.”

At least they will seemingly head into the summer break on better terms.

“I’ll speak with Daniel in private and we’ll sort it out,” said Verstappen, who finished the race in fifth and is sixth overall in the standings.

Ricciardo is fourth, with five podium finishes in the past seven races.

“It was pleasing to see Max put his hand up and immediately apologize,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. “We all move on.”

The next race, after a month-long break, is the Belgian GP in Spa, nestled in the Ardennes forest.

At least temperatures there will be somewhat cooler.

Ricciardo quickest as Red Bull leads opening Hungarian GP practice

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Daniel Ricciardo made a flying start to the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend by topping the opening Formula 1 practice session at the Hungaroring for Red Bull, beating rivals from the Ferrari and Mercedes teams.

Red Bull has been running as the third-fastest team for much of the F1 season so far behind Ferrari and Mercedes, but hoped to make up some ground in Hungary given the tight and twisting nature of the circuit on the outskirts of Budapest, suiting the RB13 chassis.

Ricciardo was able to live up to the hopes through FP1 by soundly beating the rival teams, recording a fastest lap of 1:18.486 to finish two-tenths of a second clear at the front of the pack.

The Australian was tailed by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in second place, with five-time Hungarian Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton taking third for Mercedes ahead of Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull.

Valtteri Bottas took fifth for Mercedes, while championship leader Sebastian Vettel wound up sixth, more than a second behind Ricciardo at the front.

McLaren enjoyed one of its strongest sessions of the season so far as both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne made the top 10, taking P7 and P8 respectively.

Renault was also able to get both of its drivers up into the top half of the order, with Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer ending up ninth and 10th. Palmer did suffer a late crash that meant FP1 ended under a red flag, continuing his recent plight.

The session saw Alfonso Celis Jr. and Antonio Giovinazzi, development drivers at Force India and Haas respectively, get some track time, but things did not go entirely as planned.

Giovinazzi suffered a shunt that cut his session short, forcing the Italian to return to the paddock on foot and leave the Haas team with a quick repair job to complete ahead of second practice later today.

Horner: Red Bull would consider ‘significant’ offers for Sainz

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Red Bull would consider releasing Carlos Sainz Jr. from his Formula 1 contract if the price was right as speculation about the Spaniard’s future continues to circulate the paddock.

Sainz said over the Austrian Grand Prix weekend that a fourth year with Toro Rosso in 2018, Red Bull’s B-team in F1, was unlikely, only for his bosses to snap back and confirm he remained under contract for next season.

With Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen locked in at Red Bull for the foreseeable future, Sainz appears to be stuck at Toro Rosso, leading to suggestions he could be set for a move up the grid.

A report in the German media over the Silverstone weekend even suggested he could be in line to replace Jolyon Palmer at Renault for the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of the month, but Horner was quick to rebuff this.

“I don’t know where these rumors come from, but I cannot believe that these rumors are out there for the Hungarian race,” Horner said, as quoted by Reuters.

“Carlos Sainz has a contract with Red Bull Racing. There are two years left on that contract.

“If somebody was prepared to make an offer, of course, we’d consider it.”

However, Horner stressed that it would need to be an impressive offer given Red Bull’s investment in Sainz, having funded his career from Formula BMW right the way up to F1.

“It would have to have a significant value attached to it because we’ve invested in Carlos significantly,” Horner said.

“You’re not just going to give an asset away.”

Should Sainz depart Toro Rosso at the end of the season, 2016 GP2 champion Pierre Gasly, who currently races in Japan’s Super Formula series, is next in line on Red Bull’s junior program to get a shot in F1.