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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.

Williams to auction Russian GP race-worn gear for Billy Monger

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Williams Martini Racing will make a difference in trying to support Billy Monger, the young driver who lost his legs in an F4 accident earlier this month but who has already received several hundred thousand pounds of funding to help pay for his medical costs.

The team announced Wednesday it would auction off Felipe Massa’s firesuit and Lance Stroll’s boots from this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix via eBay. A link to bid is here. Funds will go to Monger’s JustGiving page.

It’s an excellent gesture from the team and perhaps the start of even more stakeholders in the racing community to support the young teenager.

Stroll sure luck will change after starting F1 career with three DNFs

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Lance Stroll was left ruing his luck once again last weekend in Bahrain after retiring from the race due to a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., marking a third straight DNF to start his Formula 1 career.

Stroll, 18, stepped up from Formula 3 to join Williams for 2017, making his debut at the Australian Grand Prix after an extensive testing program.

Stroll retired in Australia due to a brake issue before being punted out of the race on the opening lap in China by Sergio Perez.

Stroll and Sainz came together early on in Bahrain at Turn 1 as the latter exited the pit lane. The stewards deemed the incident to have been Sainz’s fault, handing him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Russia.

While he was not responsible for the crash, Stroll was nevertheless frustrated after the race in Bahrain as his weekend came to an early end once again.

“I have put it behind me – what else can you do? Yes, it is frustrating, but it’s not in my hands,” Stroll told the official F1 website.

“These three races were an accumulation of bad luck: a brake failure in Australia, some kind of racing incident in China, and on Sunday being torpedoed by Carlos. Unlucky, all three incidents – but the tables will turn.

“It wouldn’t change anything to look at it in a negative way. It’s all about looking at the bright side and there are a lot of positives to take out of the first couple of races. And we are improving at every race.

“There are still 17 races ahead – and we haven’t even gone to Europe where I know all the tracks which will make things easier for me.”

Facing such a steep learning curve in F1, Stroll said he has gained plenty from his first three races despite the limited running.

“There have been some good moments in qualifying, but I am still watching and learning. It’s not so much the difficulty of Formula 1, but the difference of Formula 1 versus everything that I have done so far,” Stroll said.

“When you come here the tires seem almost a closed book and you have to open it and learn to read it. Then, of course, you have to learn the little tricks of the trade – for example, what it takes to makes the tires happy.

“That is why a [test] day like Tuesday is so important – when you are not limited on runs. It is working round to getting to the maximum with my capability as a racing driver.”

Paffett makes F1 return with Williams, three years after last test

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Gary Paffett enjoyed his first Formula 1 test in over three-and-a-half years on Wednesday in Barcelona, turning in laps for Williams in its FW40 car.

Paffett, 36, has enjoyed a long-running relationship with Mercedes that saw him enjoy extensive test running between 2006 and 2013 with McLaren, its former customer team.

Paffett’s development role with McLaren ended upon its switch to Honda power for 2015, with the Briton focusing on his race duties in DTM with Mercedes.

After making his last public F1 test appearance with McLaren at Silverstone in July 2013, Paffett was back in action on Wednesday in Bahrain with Williams, contributing to its young driver running allocation (‘young’ being defined by any driver with less than three race starts).

Paffett enjoyed a trouble-free day, turning in 126 laps en route to eighth place in the final standings.

“It’s been a while since I’ve done a full test in a Formula 1 car! It’s really good to be back in the car, really good,” Paffett said.

“The cars this year with the increased downforce, and more grip in the tires, are really nice to drive. We’ve had a really good day.

“We’ve done a lot of laps, which is really good, and we got all of our testing done. That’s the purpose really, to get all the testing done, and then for me to go back and validate the simulator.

“So overall it was really nice to drive the car and I’m very happy with how the day went.”

Paffett may be due to appear for Williams once again in Hungary later this year at the second in-season test, given the British team currently has no junior drivers on its books.

Tire pressure issues end Bahrain pole-man Bottas’ hopes of first F1 win

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Valtteri Bottas saw his hopes of taking a maiden Formula 1 victory in Bahrain on Sunday fade as tire pressure issues limited the Finn to third place at the checkered flag.

Bottas scored his first pole position in F1 on Saturday in qualifying, edging out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by 0.023 seconds with his best lap.

Bottas retained his lead through the first stint of the race, but was unable to pull away as he struggled to manage his rear tires, creating a train of cars behind.

Bottas lost the lead after a slow pit stop, and ultimately had to let Hamilton pass him twice on-track to allow the Briton a shot at winning the race, leaving the ex-Williams driver third come the finish.

“It was a really tricky race for me, struggling with the pace all through the race. I think the first stint we found a bit of an issue with the tire pressures, that explains the rear end struggle,” Bottas said.

“But after that I was just rear limited and out of the tools on the steering wheel. It was just oversteering all through the race and that’s where the pace was slow, which is a real shame because for sure the target for today was a lot higher.”

Bottas admitted that he was disappointed to have been asked to let Hamilton pass him on two occasions in the race, but conceded that it was for the good of the team as it tried – and failed – to stop Sebastian Vettel winning for Ferrari.

“I’m a racing driver, so being told to let your teammate through is the worst thing you can ear. But there was potential for Lewis to catch Sebastian, so I understand the team’s decision,” Bottas said.

“Personally it’s hard, but what I have to find out is why we didn’t have the pace today.