Ricciardo runs on his own en route to first ’17 podium at Spain

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There seemed to be three races in one in today’s Spanish Grand Prix. There was the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel for the win, the intense midfield battle between five or six teams for the lower points, and the singular drive of Daniel Ricciardo on his own for what became his first podium of 2017.

The Australian has had an unhappy start to the season with fourth, fifth and two DNFs thus far in the opening four races. An early brake issue took him out of the race early in Sochi, the previous Grand Prix, and resigned him to being a spectator rather early on.

Today in Barcelona, Ricciardo only qualified sixth but inherited third as a result of Valtteri Bottas’ engine issue and the contact between Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen that took them out of the race.

So it was, then, that Ricciardo was more than a minute behind the top two but the only other car on the lead lap after 66 laps in Barcelona.

There was no podium “shoey” but Ricciardo was relieved to take what he could get and finally have a result of note this year.

“It feels good. We had a little bit of fortune today with Valtteri stopping. We were fourth otherwise,” Ricciardo said on the podium.

“For now, we’ll take all we can. It’s so nice to be on the podium again.”

Red Bull’s chassis seemed stronger in Spain but with Renault (badged as TAG Heuer for this team) not having an engine update for several more races at least, the power deficit is stretched over the length of a Grand Prix.

Verstappen, whose Spanish Grand Prix race defense went away on the first lap, said Red Bull has more work to do if it is to close that gap to Mercedes and Ferrari ahead of them.

“We still need to be faster. With three cars retiring from the top three teams, people end up on the podium,” Verstappen told NBCSN’s Will Buxton. “We’ll see in Monaco. We need to improve.”

F1: Hamilton leads Mercedes front row lockout in France

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Lewis Hamilton needed to outduel teammate Valtteri Bottas in qualifying for Sunday’s French Grand Prix, after the Finn jumped ahead of the Briton on his final run – Bottas turned in a lap at 1:30.147 to barely get clear of Hamilton.

However, Hamilton ultimately got the last laugh and turned in a 1:30.029 on his final lap, bettering Bottas by just over one tenth of a second, to take the 75th pole of his career.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel qualified third, followed by the Red Bull Racing duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in fourth and fifth. Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen ended up sixth.

Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. qualified seventh, and Sauber’s Charles Leclerc qualified a brilliant eighth as the Frenchman continued a strong rookie campaign in front of his home crowd.

The Haas duo of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean completed the top 10, with Grosjean actually crashing out of Q3 after nosing his VF-18 into a barrier.

Results are below. Of note: the McLaren drivers of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne failed to advance out of Q1 and qualified 16th (Alonso), and 18th (Vandoorne), though Vandoorne will start 17th as Brendon Hartley will start at the back of the grid after Toro Rosso changed several components of the power unit.

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