Red Bull’s first home grand prix ends in disappointment

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Red Bull’s first ever home grand prix in Austria ended in disappointment today after Sebastian Vettel retired from the race and Daniel Ricciardo scored just four points.

The team made its F1 debut in 2005, two years after the last race in Austria, and the return of the event was brokered by the brand’s billionaire owner, Dietrich Mateschitz. However, at the Red Bull Ring today, things did not go to plan.

Qualifying had been bad enough for Sebastian Vettel on Saturday. The defending world champion could only qualify 13th, but was promoted to 12th after Sergio Perez served a five-place grid penalty. After holding position off the line, his race soon took a turn for the worse when his RB10 car lost drive.

As Vettel’s car coasted around the track, it looked like his race was over after just two laps. However, he somehow managed to reset what was wrong and get the car back going again – although by this time he was a lap down on the rest of the field.

His engineer, Rocky, told him to “go racing” and enjoy himself, but a run-in with Esteban Gutierrez meant that he had to pit for a new front wing. On lap 37, the team decided that enough was enough, and retired the car to save its engine.

Ricciardo, on the other hand, fared far better in qualifying, lining up fifth on the grid. However, a poor start saw him drop down the order and start battling for the small points with Daniil Kvyat and Nico Hulkenberg.

After Kvyat retired, Ricciardo managed to pick up a place, and continued to push before passing Hulkenberg on the last lap of the race to secure eighth position.

For a race that was intended to be Red Bull’s big show, just four points is a miserable offering. The team will be hoping to bounce back at the British Grand Prix in two weeks’ time, but the problems may not be resolved by then. Instead, it could be that seeing Vettel and Ricciardo struggle to compete is a running theme of the 2014 season.

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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