Ricciardo claims maiden grand prix victory as Mercedes hits trouble

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Daniel Ricciardo has claimed his first ever win in Formula 1 at a thrilling Canadian Grand Prix that saw him pass an ailing Nico Rosberg in the dying stages of the race.

Rosberg and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton forged into a huge lead at the start of the race, and looked set to duel for the race win once again in Montreal, only for a brake problem to hit both drivers. Hamilton was forced to retire from the race, but Rosberg managed the issue.

However, he just could not hold off a charging Ricciardo in the final stages of the grand prix, and eventually succumbed at the final corner thanks to DRS on the Australian’s Red Bull. His world champion teammate, Sebastian Vettel, completed the podium ahead of Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg who benefitted from a late crash between Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa.

From the line, second placed Hamilton made a fantastic start to get up alongside Rosberg heading into the first corner. However, he was forced wide after the German driver locked up, dropping him down to third place behind Sebastian Vettel. Fernando Alonso fell back one place from the line behind Jean-Eric Vergne, but the race was quickly interrupted following an incident between the two Marussia drivers. Max Chilton lost the back-end of his car heading through the first chicane and hit teammate Jules Bianchi, sending the Frenchman into the wall. Both drivers had to retire from the race, and the safety car was deployed to allow for the wreckage to be cleared by the marshals.

On lap eight, the safety car peeled in and the race resumed, with Rosberg making a good restart to lead from Vettel and Hamilton. The Briton soon made light work of the Red Bull driver thanks to the superior straight line speed of his Mercedes, and he duly set his sights on catching Rosberg in front.

Ricciardo had held position in sixth off the line, but was working well to keep Felipe Massa ahead in sight. Red Bull opted to bring him in early, and Williams followed suit with its drivers. However, a slow stop for Massa meant that he dropped down the order and behind Jean-Eric Vergne. Vergne himself lost a place to Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who went one lap longer before making his first stop. Vettel also dived into the pits from third place to get the option tire out of the way and move onto the prime.

Rosberg was the first of the Mercedes drivers to pit on lap 18, handing the lead to Hamilton. The German driver emerged from the pits in second place, but was lucky not to crash when he had a moment at turn four. However, the gap was big enough to allow Rosberg to retain the lead after both Mercedes drivers had stopped.

After he had pitted, though, Hamilton soon got the hammer down. The Briton carved into Rosberg’s lead, and was soon within DRS range. Heading into the final chicane, Rosberg locked up and had to cut the chicane, but managed to hold onto the lead and sneakily set the fastest lap in the process. This prompted the stewards to investigate the move for exceeding track limits, only for them to warn the German driver and tell him not to do it again.

In the race to complete the podium, Vettel found himself behind the Force India drivers of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg as they were yet to stop. On the prime tire, they were able to keep the defending world champion at bay, thus allowing Valtteri Bottas to close up in the Williams. When Perez pitted, Hulkenberg moved up into third place behind the Mercedes, albeit some 26 seconds down on Hamilton.

Bottas was the first of the front runners to make his second stop, and dropped down to 12th place as a result. He looked to get the undercut on Vettel, who was still being harmed by Hulkenberg ahead. The German shadowed his podium rival by pitting one lap later, and gave himself a chance to push on out of traffic.

At the front, concern began to set in at Mercedes when both Rosberg and Hamilton began to slow through all three sectors. The Briton closed up to his German teammate once again, but both were losing some 20km/h through the speed trap. The team informed its drivers that they both had the same issue, and it could not be resolved.

Rosberg dived into the pits a few laps later for a set of prime tires, but a slow stop allowed Hamilton to move ahead of his teammate once he stopped. However, he made a mistake at the hairpin to allow Rosberg back past, only to then try another move at the final corner and cut the chicane just as Nico did earlier in the race. This later turned out to be a brake problem, forcing Hamilton to park his car up and retire from the race with 22 laps to go.

This allowed Rosberg to move back into the lead once Felipe Massa pitted from the front, but he too had a brake problem. The chasing pack of Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel all had the smell of blood, and could sense that a race win could be on the cards.

Mercedes’ pit wall continued to cross its fingers that Rosberg could hold on and claim the team’s seventh win of the season. The German driver continued to find time in the first two sectors, but he was being caught up by severeal tenths of a second in the final sector thanks to the long straight.

Felipe Massa continued to push for position, managing to find his way past both his teammate Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg after they tussled for position at the hairpin. The Brazilian sat in fifth place, and was beginning to put the hammer down in an attempt to catch the leaders ahead.

Rosberg continued to pull away in the first sector, which meant he had enough of an advantage to stay in the lead through the final sector. With just five laps to go, Ricciardo finally managed to find a way past Perez, and set his sights on Rosberg at the front.

The Red Bull driver closed on Rosberg in the final couple of laps, and with three laps to go he found his way past with DRS to take the lead of the race. On the final lap, Sergio Perez had a massive crash with Massa at the first corner, bringing out the safety car. This meant that the cars crossed the line in the order they were running, giving Ricciardo a well deserved maiden win in Formula 1.

On the podium, the Australian driver was jubilant as he heard his national anthem ring out over the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. After a long race, he managed to get into the lead when it counted and claim a well deserved first grand prix victory.

Bourdais hopes last year’s crash turns into Indy 500 Cinderella story on Sunday

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Sebastien Bourdais has relived his May 20, 2017 crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifying over and over in his mind, day after day, week after week and month after month.

He would think of the worst crash of his open-wheel racing career at least once — if not several times — a day, particularly when he’d experience a slight twinge of pain.

“I think about it every day,” Bourdais told MotorSportsTalk. “Even though I’m functionally 100 percent now, it’s still very rare that during the day that there’s not a little pinch or something that reminds me of what happened.”

But this past weekend while qualifying for this year’s 500, one year later, the French driver said he was finally able to work past the mental roadblock that just would not leave his mind.

The solution was simple: complete the task he wasn’t able to do so last year, namely, qualifying for the race – and qualifying well.

Bourdais will start fifth in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, in the middle of Row 2.

“(Last year’s crash is) still in my mind,” Bourdais said. “But I think the biggest hurdle, at least mentally, was qualifying last weekend, putting yourself back in the same set of circumstances, going back on the line there.

“It felt a little bit the same, chances of rain, some rain, delays, you get back in line, conditions change, everything gets harder because it gets hotter, but that’s the biggest hurdle to overcome. After that, it’s back to business.”

Bourdais has already won once in 2018 – the season-opening race in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida.

It helped jump start him to a strong overall run in the first five races of the season, including a fourth-place showing two weeks ago at the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Indianapolis, coupled with entering the 500 third in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.

Now, he wants to win the biggest race of his career. If he does so, he’ll feel as if he finally and completely has come full circle from last year’s devastating wreck that shattered his pelvis, going head-on into the Turn 2 wall at a reported 228 mph.

“Well, it’s the Holy Grail of IndyCar, it doesn’t really get any bigger than that,” Bourdais said of the 500. “It’s the biggest achievement that you can accomplish in IndyCar.

“I don’t think I’m any different than anybody else: we all want to win it pretty bad, but I’m sure after what happened after last year, it’d be a Cinderella story.”

But there’s a caveat to Bourdais writing that story: “There’s 32 other drivers that want to accomplish the same thing, and it’s a one day event. We’ll give it our best shot … you can only give your very best and see what happens on that given day.”

Bourdais has a lot going for him heading into Sunday. First off, he’ll start from the highest qualifying position he’s ever had in what will be the seventh Indy 500 of the 39-year-old’s racing career.

Second, his confidence and comfort level are higher than they’ve ever been coming into the annual classic at the 2.5-mile Brickyard oval.

Third, he’s forgiven himself – not IMS – for what happened last year. He has no ill feeling towards the racetrack, nor does he seek revenge. If he were to start thinking that way, it would serve no positive purpose.

“No. I’m not really that way,” he said when asked if he wants revenge over the racetrack. “The track didn’t beat me up, I beat myself.

“The bottom line is there were a couple of reasons why it happened, but I got more comfortable and more confident and confidence and comfort at some point just bite you at Indy.

“You just do your laps, you get into such a rhythm and the week had gone perfectly with an awesome car and there was not a doubt in my mind it was going to stick (going into Turn 2), and that’s when it happened – and I paid the price.”

So, Bourdais is simply going to go out and race, again, hoping to complete what he started last year before being so painfully derailed.

His best finish to date in the 500 has been seventh (2014). He just needs for his Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser – Sullivan Honda to finish six places higher on Sunday.

And if he does, his move to Dale Coyne Racing last year – he’s competed in 13 of 23 races with two wins, 3 podiums and one pole – would only serve to make what already has proven to be a great move into a potentially brilliant move.

Because, yes, Bourdais isn’t just thinking Indy 500 win, he’s also thinking of a potential championship this season.

“I sure hope so,” Bourdais said when asked if his team’s success will continue. “I like to say it’s (the success that the Coyne camp has had since he came there) a little bit of my baby, bringing in Craig (engineer Craig Hampson) and Olivier (race engineer Olivier Boisson) and reinforcing the existing crew.”

Bourdais is no stranger to winning championships. He won four straight combined titles in CART and the Champ Car World Series from 2004 through 2007 (he also won 28 races in that four-year span).

“Obviously, it’s one thing to get into a winning team and basically meet expectations,” Bourdais said. “It’s another thing to try and build something and change the status of the underdog and turn him into a contender week in and week out.

“We got a glimpse of that last year, and this year, we’ve been competitive every weekend so far, and that’s a great feeling. Once you’re able to be competitive on street course, road courses, short ovals and superspeedways, then you can start saying and thinking championship.”

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