THE German marques maintained their dominance over Mount Panorama so far in Practice 3 for the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
The No. 43 Schnitzer Team BMW once again headed the No. 22 Jamec-Pem Audi at the top of the order, Augusto Farfus again setting the benchmark time but shaving quarter of a second off his Practice 2 best, pipping Kelvin Van der Linde by just 0.04 of a second.
Christopher Mies was a further 0.22 of a second adrift in third aboard the No. 74 Jamec-Pem Audi, while Philipp Eng put the No. 100 SRM Team BMW fourth with his final lap of the session.
Former pole sitter Laurens Vanthoor continued the German rout of the top end of the timesheets, putting the No. 991 Manthey Racing Porsche fifth, with just 0.38 of a second covering the first five cars.
In fact, you have to go all the way down to ninth place to find anything other than a BMW, Audi, Porsche or Mercedes.
Craig Lowndes lobbed the No. 58 YNA Autosport McLaren into the spot with his final lap of practice, the 2m05.0819s some 1.65s shy of Farfus’ time.
The brand new MARC II Ford Mustang was the fastest of the non-Class A cars in 19th, Will Brown putting in a 2m06.8188s aboard the No. 91 car.
Class B honours went to the No. 23 Team Carrera Cup Asia Porsche in 31st place on a 2m11.9602s — which briefly caused a red flag early in the session when it stopped at McPhillamy Park — while Aaron Seton set the fastest time in Class C in the BMW M4 GT4 he will share with Matt Brabham and Tony Longhurst, putting the orange Boat Works-backed car 38th overall.
“To answer it diplomatically, I think Lewis isn’t the only one that could win races in that car,” Ricciardo told Square Mile.
“That’s obviously my opinion and I think that George Russell, in a way, showed the possibility of that by pretty much beating Valtteri [Bottas] in his first race.
“So you could argue that just maybe Lewis doesn’t have the strongest competition.”
However, Ricciardo did also concede that beating Hamilton in an individual race is a lot easier than sustaining it over the period of an entire season, with the Brit having done so for more than seven years.
“I think, where we can’t be too aggressive or disrespectful to Lewis, is that, do a few of us believe we could beat him? Yes. I’m quite sure of that.
“But none of us have ever been in the hunt for a title. None of us have dealt with that pressure. None of us have had that year after year.
“Pretty much every weekend he rocks up to a race. Yes, he has the best car, but he’s also expected to win all the time. And if he doesn’t, it’s, ‘OK, what happened to Lewis?’.”
The person expecting to push Hamilton all the way this year is Ricciardo’s former Red Bull teammate, Max Verstappen.
Mazepin crashes after only THREE turns
The Dutchman and Ricciardo parted ways at the end of 2018 after a number of high-profile run-ins on track and the new McLaren man revealed how their relationship has since improved – even if they both wanted to once “end each other’s careers”.
He said: “I think it’s easier now for me and Max to be friends for two reasons.
“I think one is that obviously we’re not in direct competition – we’re not trying to basically end each other’s careers.
“The second point is that I think – I mean, of course, I won races with him as a teammate and got pole position so I think he always knew I was quick and respected me.
“But now, since I’ve left, the other drivers have come through and him having different teammates, I think it’s probably increased his respect for me even more.
“I mean we never hated each other, we just wanted to end each other’s careers! It’s as simple as that.”
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The former Renault and Red Bull racer was scathing in the aftermath of Grosjean’s crash, saying it was “disgusting” that the live TV broadcast continued to show a loop of replays of the scary incident during the hour-long break before the re-start of the race.
Ricciardo’s outburst resulted in him in December agreeing to meet with Formula 1 director of marketing and communications Ellie Norman to reach a peaceful resolution.
That had appeared to be the end of it, but an interview has now revealed Ricciardo is far from finished in his push to clean up the sport from its own employees.
Ricciardo has told UK lifestyle magazine Square Mile Formula 1 is still habitually crossing the line with its internal coverage of crashes and on-track drama.
He highlights a social media post from last year where the official F1 account promoted crashes as some of the biggest moments of the 2020 season, which was famously derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think last year, F1 put on their social channels, like, ‘top 10 moments of the year’ or something, and eight of the ten were crashes,” he said.
“I was just like, you guys are f***ing idiots. Maybe 12-year-old kids want to see that kind of content, and that’s cool because they don’t know any better, but we’re not kids. Just do better, guys. Do better than that.”
He says in the interview the trending focus on drama has also been propelled in the highly-acclaimed Netflix documentary series Drive To Survive.
“I think the first season of Drive To Survive was awesome,” he said.
“I spend some time in the States, and I noticed it literally from one trip to the next.
“It was the first time I started being recognised and people referencing that TV series. So it certainly did us wonders, even – not to talk social media – but numbers on social media went nuts. It did a lot for us and the sport.
F1 world baffled over new Lewis vision
“I mean the second season, there were some episodes or parts where I feel they forced it a little bit.
“They tried to create a bit of a rivalry between me and [Carlos] Sainz and it wasn’t really there. Like, he’s no more a rival than anyone else. There wasn’t any personal grudge with him, but I think [Netflix] wanted something, so a lot of questions led with asking about Carlos.
“Maybe no one noticed, but for me, I was like, he’s fine. I’ve probably got other guys that I dislike, you know, as opposed to Carlos… I mean, he dresses like a 60 year old, but otherwise he’s alright.”
Ricciardo’s comments strike a very different tune to the one that followed his initial meeting with the sport’s marketing boss.
“I think she was very understanding and appreciative, and I think also accepted my concerns as well,” he said at the time.
“She didn’t push back, I think she was trying to listen and learn as well, how they could maybe do things differently. But she also talked me through the reasons why they broadcast what they did.”
It came after he gave the administration a public slap in Bahrain last year.
“The way the incident of Grosjean was broadcast over and over, the replays over and over, it was completely disrespectful and inconsiderate for his family, for all of our families watching,” he said.
“We’re going to go race again in an hour and every time we look on the TV it’s a ball of fire and his car’s cut in half.
“I mean we can see that tomorrow, we don’t need to see it today.
“For me, it was entertainment and they’re playing with all of our emotions and I thought it was pretty disgusting.”