Ricciardo relishing return to site of first F1 victory

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Daniel Ricciardo is relishing his return to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix next weekend one year on from his shock maiden Formula 1 victory at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

In just his seventh grand prix for Red Bull Racing, Ricciardo claimed his first win after overtaking an ailing Nico Rosberg in the dying stages of the race.

The Australian’s victory was one of three he scored across the course of the season, finishing as the only non-Mercedes driver to win a race.

Speaking ahead of next weekend’s race, Ricciardo admitted that the event has always been one of his favorites and that winning in Canada only made him love Montreal more.

“Possibly winning has made me love it a little bit more but really I’ve loved it since my first lap, back when I was driving for Toro Rosso,” Ricciardo said.

“I remember coming back into the pits and saying ‘what a circuit,’ I was amazed at how good it was – and I’d only done an install.

“It’s just a ridiculous amount of fun. You can jump across the kerbs and really get the car bouncing around. It’s like getting back to go-kart days, you really feel like you own it – and I love that.

“You can get aggressive with it, and aim to just brush the wall. There’s a lot of risk but that brings a lot of adrenaline with it. It’d be wonderful if you were doing it in isolation but with 100,000 screaming fans urging you on, it’s just mega.”

In the wake of his maiden win, Ricciardo admitted that there were some celebrations that night in Montreal, but he didn’t go too crazy.

“I was very restrained and in bed by 1.30am,” he said. “There’s a point where the adrenaline wears off and suddenly you’re absolutely exhausted. I remember falling into bed, thinking ‘wow, crazy day,’ and out went the lights.

“Fortunately the crew are made of sterner stuff and kept the party going. They were not a pretty sight at breakfast the following day…”

With Red Bull falling down the pecking order in 2015, it is unlikely that Ricciardo will be in the mix for a second win in Montreal next weekend. However, the team does appear to be on the fightback after its best result of the year in Monaco, and could yet fight inside the top five once again in Canada.

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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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.