Ricciardo: Montreal the most demanding F1 circuit

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Daniel Ricciardo believes that the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal is one of the most demanding races on the calendar, requiring an extra edge that drivers may not need at other circuits.

The Australian driver has made a sensational start to the season, having joined Red Bull from Toro Rosso at the beginning of the year. Despite initial concerns about his suitability for the world champions, he has scored two podium finishes in 2014, and is ahead of world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ championship.

Heading to Montreal, Ricciardo is keen on scoring his third consecutive podium finish at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but is aware of the challenge that he faces.

“I doubt anyone on the grid lacks motivation, but there’s definitely a little extra edge to it at some circuits,” Ricciardo explained. “They tend to be the ones that demand the most from you and hold real consequences from getting it wrong. Montreal definitely falls into that category.

“Each of the chicanes – the hairpin too – is an opportunity to make up, or lose, time but the crucial corner is probably the last one: you arrive at top speed so there’s a lot to be gained in braking if you get that just right, and then the way you go over the kerbs is worth more time.”

The final chicane at Montreal is infamous for claiming a number of high-profile scalps over the years. In 1999, Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill all crashed on the exit of the corner, resulting in the wall being dubbed the “Wall of Champions”. Since then, another 12 drivers have ended their races in that wall.

“It’s a clear choice: some guys will play it safe and sacrifice half a tenth to get through there cleanly; others who will take a risk and go flat out trying to find a little bit,” Ricciardo said.

“The nearer you are, the faster you’ll go. Give the wall a kiss and you feel pretty good. Kiss it too hard and that’s it!”

In recent years, Lewis Hamilton has dominated proceedings at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, winning three of the last six races there. Although a win may not be on the cards, Ricciardo will be hoping that he can excel in Canada and continue his superb start to the season.

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.