Mercedes winning streak ends due to car problems

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The winning streak that Mercedes has enjoyed at the beginning of the 2014 Formula 1 season has come to a shattering end after both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had problems on their cars today, allowing Daniel Ricciardo to claim his maiden grand prix victory.

The Australian driver managed to pass Rosberg with three laps remaining in Montreal to secure Red Bull’s first win of the season, and the first of his Formula 1 career.

Rosberg and Hamilton had locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying, and the German driver managed to hold onto the lead off the line. Hamilton dropped down to third after he was forced wide by his teammate, but managed to make his way back past Sebastian Vettel after a safety car period.

The two Mercedes drivers forged ahead into a 26 second lead, and looked set to battle each other once again for the race win. However, their pace began to drop off in the second stint of the race, and it was later diagnosed as being an ERS problem which affected the brakes on the car.

Hamilton was forced to retire with 22 laps remaining, such was the severity of his problem, but Rosberg managed to keep going and stay in the lead of the race. Sergio Perez kept closing in the final sector, only to lose a lot of time in the first two sectors to Rosberg as his tires began to fade. Ricciardo eventually found his way past the Force India driver, and then went on to reel in Rosberg and make the pass on the third to last lap.

This result ends Mercedes’ aspirations of a perfect season, something that has never been done before in Formula 1. Rosberg’s second place finish means that he does extend his championship lead to 22 points over Lewis Hamilton, and the Silver Arrows are unquestionably still the team to beat.

For today though, the spoils go to Daniel Ricciardo. He moves up to third place in the drivers’ championship behind the Mercedes drivers, and he has proven – if there was any lingering doubt – that he is a perfect replacement for Mark Webber at the champion team.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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