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Tables turn for Red Bull drivers in Monaco as Ricciardo hits podium

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Red Bull Formula 1 drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen saw their emotions flip from post-qualifying to post-race in Monaco as the team picked up its third podium finish of the year.

Ricciardo’s usual smiley demeanor was absent after he qualified fifth on Saturday, having felt Red Bull was capable of more, while Verstappen – just one place ahead in P4 – said the result was the maximum the team could have hoped for.

In the race, though, the tables turned. Ricciardo crossed the line third, content to be best of the rest behind the dominant Ferraris, while Verstappen was left irked by Red Bull’s strategy call costing him position.

Verstappen had spent the early part of the race running fourth behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, prompting Red Bull to try and get the undercut by pitting the Dutchman early.

Mercedes reacted just one lap later and pitted Bottas, bringing the Finn back out ahead of Verstappen on-track.

Ricciardo, who had been fifth, was finding more and more time on his ultra-soft tires after being dropped into clear air, while Bottas and Verstappen were left to toil in traffic, losing chunks of time in the process.

Ricciardo came in six laps after his teammate and was able to get back out a comfortable third, gaining two places with the overcut, much to Verstappen’s frustration.

Despite a late-race brush with the barrier following the safety car restart, Ricciardo was able to hold on to third place ahead of Bottas and Verstappen, going some way to make up for his qualifying disappointment.

“I’m much happier today. I can’t obviously complain how it worked out and I have to thank the team. It was cool to show some pace today and we had that clear track,” Ricciardo said.

“I didn’t think the tires had that much more but I just got into that rhythm, was able to punch out some good times. I knew the pace was right, my engineer was encouraging me on the radio saying: ‘Pace is really good. Keep going, keep going!’ That was certainly motivating and my thanks to the homies.

“After the safety car it was pretty unexpected when I touched the wall as I didn’t brake late or anything, I felt I was quite cautious, but then when I turned I thought the car isn’t turning, I then hit the wall and thought I damaged the front wing or something.

“But in the end it was OK. I’m just happy to be back on the podium to be honest. That was definitely the icing on the cake and is a reward for myself and the team.”

Verstappen trotted back to his garage after the race with his helmet still on and delayed meeting the media after the race so he had time to calm down, having felt he had lost a sure-fire podium shot.

“It is very disappointing after such a clean weekend where everything has gone really well to then feel I lost out on a podium, but I guess that is racing,” Verstappen said.

“I tried everything I could to get close to Bottas, you can say we stopped too early or should have gone longer but that is always easy to think after the race.

“Even after the safety car, I was on fresh, softer rubber but with the wide cars and dirty air you can’t make a move and I had no real chance of overtaking here.

“I think I did 77 laps in traffic today, that isn’t much fun and I couldn’t push but at least we finished the race which is the biggest positive from the day.”

MRTI: Toronto digest

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Last year’s visit to the streets of Toronto for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires proved to be a pivotal point in the championship chase that year.

Kyle Kaiser swept both races in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, and doing so gave him firm control over the championship, and he all but clinched it ahead of the season finale at Watkins Glen – Kaiser needed to only start that event to wrap up the title.

And in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, while Parker Thompson swept the weekend, Oliver Askew was caught up in a crash in Race 2. Combine that with a second place finish from 2017 title rival Rinus VeeKay – VeeKay also finished third in Race 1 – and it kept the championship within reach of VeeKay, who took it all the way to the finale at The Glen.

The 2018 visit north of the border will likely be remembered for a similar impact on the MRTI championships, both in Indy Lights and USF2000 and, maybe most significantly, in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

A look at big stories to emerge from a wild weekend on the streets of Toronto is below.

Indy Lights

Santi Urrutia scored a much needed win in Race 2 on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Santi Urrutia’s championship hopes were teetering entering the weekend – he was 49 points out of the lead and had been vastly overshadowed by title combatants Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta for most of the season. But, his Race 2 victory combined with a second place in Race 1 to close him to within 40 points of O’Ward for the championship lead. He’s still a bit of a long shot, but his chances look much brighter leaving Toronto than they did entering.
  • More significantly, Colton Herta’s title hopes may have taken an enormous hit. After crashing in Race 1 qualifying, just after grabbing the pole as well, Herta suffered a thumb fracture that he aggravated again after crashing during Race 1. It forced the team to recommend Herta essentially sit out Race 2 – he pulled off after running only a couple laps and finished sixth – and he dropped to 18 points behind O’Ward, who won Race 1 and finished second in Race 2. The margin is hardly a commanding one for O’Ward, but with the next stop at the ultra-physical Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Herta’s injured hand could remain a factor in the coming races and allow O’Ward to widen the margin.
  • One can’t help but feel bad for Victor Franzoni. Coming off the high of winning his first Indy Lights Race at Road America, Franzoni’s season took a turn for the worse. He crashed in Race 1 and then pulled off in Race 2 in order to conserve finances and resources – Franzoni detailed afterward that the budget is tight for him this year and crash damage from Race 1 does him no good. It would be a genuine shame if Franzoni’s season was derailed by funding issues, as the likeable Brazilian has made great progress all year and has the potential to make it as a Verizon IndyCar Series driver. He just needs the backing to get there.

Pro Mazda

Rinus VeeKay now trails Parker Thompson by only seven points in the Pro Mazda championship. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • No Mazda Road to Indy Championship was shaken up as much as Pro Mazda. Parker Thompson entered the weekend with a sizeable lead of 46 points over Rinus VeeKay. He exits the weekend only seven points ahead after finishes of eighth in both races – he was involved in a crash in Race 1 and made an unscheduled pit stop after thinking he suffered suspension damage in Race 2. Meanwhile, VeeKay dominated the weekend, winning from the pole in both races. It all means that what was once looking like a possible runaway has been all but reset. And we might see a genuine duel between them all the way to the season finale at Portland International Raceway.
  • There are few words to describe the relief everyone felt in seeing Harrison Scott walk away unhurt after his frightening airborne crash in Race 1. This was the first major crash test in a race for the Tatuus PM-18, and it aced it. And big kudos should also be given to the AMR Safety Team, who were already tending to Scott barely a few seconds after his car had come to a rest. Scott did start Race 2, but pulled off with a mechanical problem…which seems minor in comparison to what could have happened in Race 1.
  • Oliver Askew had his best race of the year in Race 2, finishing second to VeeKay for his second podium of the season. It’s been a tough year for Askew and Cape Motorsports after winning last year’s USF2000 title, and getting a podium under their belt could be just what they needed heading into the season’s stretch run.

USF2000

Kyle Kirkwood continued his USF2000 dominance on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • After another weekend sweep, Kyle Kirkwood has one hand on the USF2000 championship. He leads Kaylen Frederick by a staggering 131 points – that’s over four road course races worth of points. He may well leave Mid-Ohio as the USF2000 champion. And even if he doesn’t, it would take something unheard of to keep the championship from his grasp.
  • Kaylen Frederick sits second, only three points up on Igor Fraga. Fraga had his best race since Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg, when he finished second, and he nearly outdueled Kirkwood for the win in Race 2. Both he and Frederick have caught fire of late, and their battle for second is very evenly matched.
  • Don’t count out Rasmus Lindh in the battle for second in the championship either. The Swedish driver is seven points behind Frederick and scored his third podium of the year by finishing third in Race 2 at Toronto. Second is well within his reach.

The Mazda Road to Indy is off this weekend before heading to Mid-Ohio, where Indy Lights and USF2000 again have double headers, while Pro Mazda will enjoy a triple header.

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