Vettel happy with 3rd place, but cannot challenge Mercedes

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Sebastian Vettel has claimed Red Bull’s first points of the season at today’s Malaysian Grand Prix after finishing in third place behind the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

The German driver did begin the race in second place, but dropped down to fourth at the start after making a bad getaway before getting third place back from Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

“The start was not so good,” Vettel conceded on the podium after the race. “I was surprised when I saw Nico on my right. I thought I had a good start, but yeah I focused on getting in the tow of Lewis to try and get him into the first corner, then Nico was there on the right and it was quite tight.

“Daniel was coming as well as I was trying to pass Nico, so I lost a place. Fortunately I got it back.”

Vettel then spent the rest of the race behind Rosberg, and despite getting close to the Mercedes after the second round of pit stops, the defending world champion admitted that his compatriot was simply too quick.

“Later on obviously I was trying to get as close as I could to Nico,” he explained. “At some stage it looks like we are pretty similar, pretty evenly matched, but then it’s like he found another gear, he was pulling away and in the end I was just trying to bring the car home.”

Red Bull’s weekend was soured when Ricciardo was forced to retire after a problem on his front-left tire during a pit stop, having been sitting comfortably in fourth place. The Australian driver lost a lap whilst he was stuck in the pits, and then suffered a front wing failure that eventually forced him to retire. Nevertheless, Vettel is pleased with how the team is doing, but he acknowledged Mercedes’ advantage.

“All in all, it’s good to get another podium after Daniel has been on the podium in Australia. There’s still a long way, these guys are bloody quick, congratulations to them, they did a good job – trying to catch up!”

After a disastrous winter that appeared to write off Red Bull’s title hopes, the team has responded brilliantly and has returned to form after just two races of the 2014 season. However, the pressure will now be on for the team to cut the gap to Mercedes and begin to forge ahead in the hunt for a fifth straight title.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”