FLYING under the radar usually isn’t a concern for local hero Daniel Ricciardo ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
But the Red Bull star feels he has to remind everyone of his presence in Sunday’s Formula One season opener in Melbourne.
Off-contract Ricciardo — 29 in July — is considered a title threat this year with Red Bull’s new car RB14 expected to join Ferrari and threaten Mercedes’ domination in 2018.
Crowd favourite Ricciardo still felt he needed to make people sit up and take notice at Albert Park after the emergence of 20-year-old teammate Max Verstappen and talk Valtteri Bottas will challenge all conquering Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton this season.
“I always feel I have something to prove. People forget quickly as well,” Ricciardo told Fox Sports TV.
“There’s obviously a lot of talk about the young guys coming up, there’s my teammate Max.
“And talk about Bottas and can he challenge Hamilton this year. “You always feel you constantly have to remind people so I might just remind these cats and try and get myself in a good position (for world title).”
Ricciardo is hopeful of earning Red Bull’s first Australian Grand Prix podium finish since 2013 this weekend despite a luckless run in Melbourne last year plagued by technical failures.
“It brings a tear to my eye. No, it’s all good,” Ricciardo said of last year’s home grand prix.
The Red Bull star has been linked to Ferrari and Mercedes for 2019 after failing to follow the lead of Verstappen who resigned recently until 2020. Red Bull want Ricciardo to stay but have given him a deadline, with contract talks reportedly set to resume in April.
Ricciardo sounded like a man approaching a pivotal season in his career. “After your career is said and done you always want to say your career was over the limit not under it,” he said.
“Otherwise you feel like you never understood your true potential.
“Last year the new cars had not been on the limit enough — I was just trying to do what I could … but now I am excited.”
Red Bull won four straight drivers’ and constructors’ world titles when Ricciardo joined the senior team in 2014 but have not claimed another since. Ricciardo has won five races with Red Bull since being promoted from Toro Rosso four years ago.
But Red Bull are tipped to threaten four time world champion Hamilton after Ricciardo impressed in the RB14 at recent testing at Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona.
There were three penalties of note during the race; one to Ricciardo and two to Hamilton.
The penalties weren’t identical but, even so, how they were received couldn’t have been more different.
Hamilton was pinged for a minor infringement having completed pre-race practice starts in the wrong place on the pit-exit, twice.
As such, he was handed two separate five-second penalties, to which he responded: “Bull****, where is that in the rule book?”
He continued: “I’m pretty sure no-one has got two five-second penalties for something so ridiculous before.
“They’re (stewards) trying to stop me, aren’t they? But, that’s OK. I just need to keep my head down and stay focused and we’ll see what happens.”
‘They’re trying to stop me’
Ricciardo’s reaction to his own five-second penalty — he gained a position illegally by leaving the track’s confines — sat at the other end of the spectrum.
He completely owned it, saying on team radio: “OK, I will drive faster.
“Yeah, that’s my bad. I’ll make up for it.”
Ricciardo did by opening up a large enough gap to Charles Leclerc in sixth to negate the five-second penalty.
Meanwhile, Hamilton served his 10 seconds in the pits and finished a distant third before continuing to vent after the race.
To be fair to Hamilton though, his penalties caused plenty of confusion within Mercedes which claims the race director’s notes permitted the location of his practice starts.
LECLERC NON-PENALTY ‘RIDICULOUS’
While Hamilton’s penalty caused outrage for Mercedes, Leclerc’s non-penalty did the same for Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.
The drivers were involved in a tangle on Lap One that saw Stroll forced to retire from the race. Leclerc’s Ferrari escaped unharmed and he went on to finish sixth.
Stroll was tapped on his right-rear by Leclerc at Turn 4 which span him out and into the barriers to end his race.
The Canadian didn’t mince his words afterwards, saying: “Very sloppy from his part and I gave him all the room.
“I’m quite surprised that he didn’t get a penalty. I gave him plenty of room I did the whole corner on the outside and he just tagged my right rear.
“I gave him all the room I could and it was unlucky but he could have avoided it. He didn’t have to run so wide into me, so I think it’s kind of ridiculous that he didn’t get a penalty.”
Nonetheless, the stewards didn’t agree and the 22-year-old escaped any sanction.
VERSTAPPEN ENDS POINT-LESS RUN IN STYLE
After back-to-back retirements, Max Verstappen was back on the podium on Sunday to breathe life into his season.
“That’s how it should be every single weekend,” the Dutchman said after the race.
“Of course it was not good the last two weekends and I think now, to be back on the podium and in second, I think for us is a great result on a track where normally we are not that competitive, and we never scored a podium before as well, so very happy with that.”
Verstappen still has plenty of ground to make up in the drivers’ standings having fallen 33 points behind Bottas in second.
But Sunday was a major step in the right direction for Verstappen who was also voted as Driver of the Day.
Fabio Quartararo produced a thrilling ride to claim a resounding victory at the Catalunya MotoGP on Sunday, his third of the season which sends him top of the world championship standings.
Joan Mir, on a Suzuki, came through to take second and is now eight points behind Quartararo in the standings, while Alex Rins completed the podium.
The race began in dramatic fashion with Andrea Dovizioso, who led the title race by a single point from Frenchman Quartararo and Maverick Vinales, was taken out in the opening lap after tangling with Johann Zarcho.
Quartararo, on a Yamaha, won the opening two races of the season but has struggled since then, failing to reach the podium in the last five races.
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That opened the door for his rivals, with a historic six different race winners in the opening seven races of the season – and for the first time since 2000, five different countries had been represented in the winners’ circle.
But the 21-year-old, who showed signs of a return to form in last week’s Emilia-Romagna MotoGP when he came fourth, was back to his best in Barcelona, although his bike almost blew the race.
“The race was very hard for me,” said Quartararo.
“My back tyre was completely wrecked and we knew how strong the Suzukis were.
“I am not completely 100 per cent but I went step by step and I am very happy with this win.
“I suffered in my head a lot in the last month, not getting on the podium, it wasn’t easy.”
Drivers survive HUGE crash!
Starting from pole, alongside the fellow Yamahas of Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi, he set a fierce pace which put the pressure on the field, especially those trying to close him down.
One who suffered was Rossi, who had taken advantage of a wobble by Morbidelli with 11 laps to go to move into second spot. In what was his 350th Grand Prix start, the Italian looked on track to score an unprecedented 200th podium
Two laps later, however, trying to make up ground on the flying Quartararo, the 41-year-old slid into the gravel on turn two, his race over.
Morbidelli, who won in San Marino two races ago, looked good to take second but could not hold off Mir who swept past him with two laps to go.
“We had a great race,” said Mir whose second place puts him within touching distance of Quartararo.
“We needed one more lap as I could see that Fabio was losing ground but I couldn’t catch him,” said Mir.
Morbidelli then lost his place on the podium as Rins, who started down in 13th, put the gloss on an excellent race.
Quartararo heads the standings with 108 points, eight clear of Mir.
And he did, opening a wide gap later in the race to Leclerc to finish fifth, which Ricciardo said was a fair result for the team.
“I made a little extra work for myself, but it was okay,” Ricciardo told the publication.
“I took full responsibility for it. … I just locked up and went wide, and I was like, ‘I’m probably going to get a penalty here’.
“I think I’d already accepted it in my head and I was like, ‘the only way to eliminate the penalty is to go faster, and build a gap to Leclerc behind me’.
“So it was actually quite good in hindsight, it lit a bit of a fire under my bum, and I just got on with it. I think that was cool. I was, I guess, proud to not let it get to me and I think we made a really good race of it after that.”