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Three-stop strategy made no sense to Ricciardo, calls it ‘hard to take’

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Daniel Ricciardo was downbeat after Red Bull’s decision to switch him to a three-stop strategy cost him the chance to win Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Ricciardo led the early part of the race after Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took each other out on the first lap.

However, the Australian was moved onto a three-stop strategy in the middle stint of the race, costing him the lead and leaving him to make up a number of positions in the closing stages.

The decision left Ricciardo toiling to pass Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for third in the final few laps before suffering a puncture that resigned him to fourth at the flag.

Meanwhile, Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen claimed his first Formula 1 victory on a two-stop strategy, becoming the youngest winner in the history of the sport.

Speaking to NBCSN after the race, Ricciardo admitted that he did not agree with Red Bull’s decision to three-stop him, saying it made little sense to do so when leading.

“If you’re in the group, try three stops,” Ricciardo said.

“But to three-stop from the lead and put yourself behind cars on a track that’s tough to overtake at doesn’t make much sense.

“We were controlling the lead. We weren’t as quick as I would have liked, but to throw yourself back is a hard one to take and doesn’t really add up.”

When asked if he was sacrificed to allow Verstappen to win, Ricciardo said: “No, in terms of that stuff, no. It worked out as it worked out.

“The leader should normally get the better strategy. Three stop wasn’t fine. I’m not even on the podium. Even without puncture we weren’t on the podium.”

Ricciardo tried a number of opportunistic moves on Vettel in the closing stages, causing the German to complain to his Ferrari team over the radio at one point.

“Seb was slower than me,” Ricciardo said. “I got close and nearly pulled it off.

“Seb said I was too aggressive… I’m not sure what he wants.”

Andretti Autosport picks James Hinchcliffe for last 3 races of season

Andretti Autosport James Hinchcliffe
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James Hinchcliffe will finish the NTT IndyCar Series season for Andretti Autosport, replacing Zach Veach in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda.

The team made the announcement Friday afternoon that Hinchcliffe will return after racing for Andretti at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Indianapolis 500.

Hinchcliffe, who also has worked as an IndyCar on NBC analyst and pit reporter, will race in the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It’s always unfortunate to have to change drivers this far into a season, but we have to look at finishing the year the best we can for the 26 team and start evaluating and looking at options for 2021,” team owner Michael Andretti said in a release. “James has an existing relationship with our team that we’d love to build on and it makes the most sense for him to step in for these last three races. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Hinchcliffe has a season-best finish of seventh in the Indy 500. He had been working on trying to put together a deal for next season after scrambling to secure a partial schedule this year when he lost his ride at Arrow McLaren SP after 2020 with a year left on his deal.

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“I know, probably better than most, what Zach is feeling right now, and I have to say that he has handled everything about as class act as you can,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’ve known Zach as a teammate, before that as a colleague and even before that as a friend, and he is a guy that I respect in every way. I know he is a fighter and will fight back to where he wants to be.

“For me now, my focus is 100% on racing the Harvest GP and getting the best possible results for Gainbridge, for Honda, for Michael and for the team. I obviously haven’t been on a road course in a while, but at least the last time I was, it was here at IMS! Hopefully that puts us in a good position to go out there and have a strong weekend.”