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Red Bull’s high hopes come down to earth in F1 qualifying

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) Red Bull’s high hopes for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix came crashing down in qualifying on Saturday.

Max Verstappen qualified in fifth and teammate Daniel Ricciardo only 10th after clipping a barrier near the end coming out of Turn 6 on a hazardous Baku street circuit that has been causing problems all week.

“I’m not blaming the car. The rear went away a bit,” Ricciardo said. “Just the consequence of trying to get a bit more out of the car. I guess I was just chasing that little bit too much.”

It was disappointing for the team, considering that Red Bull had been showing promising speed, with Verstappen fastest in both practice sessions on Friday.

“The 10th (place) today doesn’t reflect it, but it’s definitely been a positive weekend in terms of the car feel and the progress we’re making,” Ricciardo said. “Relative to Ferrari it looks like we’ve closed the gap (in terms of speed).”

Red Bull was not the only team struggling on the sinewy, hard-braking track, which made its F1 debut last year.

“We’re all still experimenting,” Ricciardo said. “Still trying to find the sweet spot.”

Verstappen thought he found it on Friday, driving with his customary confidence to lead P1 and P2, then got a reality check on Saturday when his car packed up near the end of the third practice due to a hydraulics issue.

“We had to wind the engine down, which cost me quite a bit of lap time,” the Dutchman said. “It’s a bit unfortunate that we couldn’t extract more out of the car.”

Verstappen was second fastest behind Lewis Hamilton in the first part of qualifying, before fading in Q2 and Q3.

“We should be ahead (of Ferrari) without all those things that happened,” said Verstappen, who believes Red Bull can match Ferrari. “It’s looking a lot better. Mercedes is a bit too quick but with the Ferraris, for sure, we can fight.”

Verstappen could do with a good result in Baku on Sunday.

Last year, he became the youngest F1 driver to win a race and to qualify on the front row. But this season he has only one podium and failed to finish three races including the last, the Canadian GP two weeks ago.

Sainz keen to emulate father by entering major rally one day

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Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver Carlos Sainz Jr. has revealed he would like to enter a major rally event one, following in the footsteps of his double world champion father.

Carlos Sainz Sr. raced in the FIA World Rally Championship between 1987 and 2005, winning the drivers’ title in 1990 and 1992 and finishing as runner-up on four occasions.

Sainz Jr. followed his father into motorsport, opting to focus on circuit racing. The Spaniard worked his way up the single-seater ladder, winning the Formula Renault 3.5 title in 2014 before stepping up to F1.

Sainz continues to be spoken about as one of F1’s brightest young talents, yet beyond life on the grid, he has revealed his ambition to enter a major rally event someday.

When asked about his favorite buzz in the official F1 website’s ‘The Secret Life Of…” feature, Sainz said: “Driving a rally car. One day I want to race in one of the big rallies.” He went on to add that doing a rally was on his bucket list, along with fighting for an F1 world title.

Responding to a question about the last time he was really angry, Sainz said it came over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend in April – but not in the race when he crashed out after tangling with Lance Stroll.

“Sure everybody thinks it was the Bahrain race – wrong! It was the Saturday in Bahrain when I went out in Q1,” Sainz said.

“Sunday, it was in the heat of the race, and there **** can happen.”

Raikkonen grabs Monaco GP pole as Hamilton tanks in Q2

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Kimi Raikkonen will start a Formula 1 race from pole position for the first time in almost nine years on Sunday after topping qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Raikkonen lasted started a grand prix from pole in France in 2008, but managed to edge out Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel at the end of Q3, finishing 0.043 seconds clear in the final stage of Q3.

Raikkonen’s time of 1:12.178 came at the end of a surprising qualifying session that saw two-time Monaco winner and 2017 F1 title contender Lewis Hamilton drop out in Q2, finishing 14th-fastest.

Complaining that he could not get any grip into his tires, Hamilton abandoned his first run in Q2 entirely before pitting.

The Briton was sent out for a second run late on with the chance for three timed laps, the first two of which were compromised. When Hamilton finally found some space to charge, he was greeted by yellow flags for Vandoorne, forcing him to back off, abandon his lap, and be resigned to a lowly P14 finish in qualifying.

Valtteri Bottas was left to lead Mercedes’ charge in Q3, finishing third, just 0.002 seconds behind second-placed Vettel. Red Bull took fourth and fifth on the grid through Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo respectively.

Carlos Sainz Jr. had an impressive run to sixth for Toro Rosso ahead of Sergio Perez, while Haas’ Romain Grosjean made it through to Q3, finishing eighth.

McLaren enjoyed its best qualifying of the season as both Vandoorne and Jenson Button made it through to Q3, but it was not without its troubles. Vandoorne crashed at the end of Q2, forcing a number of drivers to back off on their final lap – including Hamilton – and will drop back three places from P10 due to a penalty overspilling from Spain.

Button charged to ninth on his one-off return to F1, but will fall back to last place for the start on Sunday after receiving a 15-place grid drop due to a power unit issue.

Daniil Kvyat was left 11th for Toro Rosso ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen, with Hamilton following in P14. Felipe Massa rounded out the top 15, having failed to post a quick lap time through the whole of Q2.

Esteban Ocon’s qualifying was something of a rollercoaster as he was eliminated in Q1 after Force India completed a rapid repair job on his VJM10 car following his practice smash. A late lap from Grosjean bumped Ocon down to 16th, dumping him out of qualifying at the first hurdle.

Jolyon Palmer and Lance Stroll’s difficult run of form continued as both dropped out in Q1, finishing 17th and 18th respectively. Palmer’s first run was hindered by a puncture, with the Briton late reporting large amounts of understeer on his car.

Sauber’s practice struggles carried over to qualifying as it propped up the running order in Q1. Pascal Wehrlein finished 19th, while teammate Marcus Ericsson was P20 after clipping the barrier on his final lap, forcing him to park up.

The Monaco Grand Prix is live on NBC from 7:30am ET on Sunday, with F1 Countdown beginning on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app at 7am ET.

Verstappen not dwelling on 2016 crash heading to Monaco

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Max Verstappen is refusing to let his crash in last year’s Monaco Grand Prix affect his confidence heading into this year’s Formula 1 race around the streets of the principality.

Just two weeks after becoming the youngest grand prix winner in history on his Red Bull debut, Verstappen came back down to earth with a bump in Monaco with multiple crashes over the weekend, including one at Massenet in the race.

Verstappen is yet to record a classified finish at Monaco, having also retired from the race in 2015 during his rookie season, but he is refusing to dwell on his past mistakes.

“There is no such thing as a low risk lap in Monaco, it doesn’t exist if you want to be fast because you have to be on the limit,” Verstappen said.

“Last year’s crash was very unfortunate but it doesn’t affect my confidence heading back there. It just makes me want to do better this year and learn from my mistakes.

“We still have a lot to learn from the car in terms of setup as it is always developing and we haven’t driven it on a tight street circuit yet.

“Preparation for Monaco is a little different, you definitely build up a little bit slower throughout the weekend and pace yourself. It’s important to find the limit carefully.

“With the new cars, I think the chicane around the Swimming Pool will be the most challenging corner this year.”

Verstappen ready for return to Spain, site of maiden F1 victory

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Max Verstappen is relishing Formula 1’s return to Europe and the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – the site of his maiden grand prix victory – for the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend.

Verstappen became F1’s youngest ever race winner in Spain last year during his debut for Red Bull, having been given a shock promotion from its B-team, Toro Rosso, four races into the season.

The Dutchman was just 18 years old when he swept to victory in Spain, capitalizing on an on-track clash between Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on the opening lap.

“Around this time last year I got the call to join Red Bull Racing, which was a great feeling, and then when it got announced everything happened really fast,” Verstappen said.

“I spent a lot of time in the factory getting prepared in the simulator in order to get used to the car. A lot of media attention, but I wasn’t really nervous, just happy that I was finally driving for a top team.

“Last year was such a special race to me and in the end we managed to pull it off. It was an incredible feeling once I passed the finish line, especially in your first race with a new team.”

While a victory for Verstappen seemed unlikely enough last year, the odds appear to be stacked against Red Bull even more so this time around given the dominance of Mercedes and Ferrari in 2017.

Red Bull is pinning its hopes on a significant update package for the RB13 car, with Verstappen hoping that it will give him the chance to take a step forward.

“We have to wait and see what the updates will bring,” Verstappen said.

“I hope we can be a bit closer to the top teams or that we can at least follow them. That would already be a good step forward.”