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As Daniel Ricciardo settles into another new season at another new team, his old employer appears to be in its best position since 2013 following another marked improvement from its Honda power unit.

Red Bull has been dominated by Mercedes since 2014, which coincided with the beginning of F1’s hybrid era and the moment Ricciardo was promoted to the team.

After years of poor performance from its Renault power unit, Red Bull switched to Honda at the end of 2018 — but saw Ricciardo walk out of the door to its engine manufacturer’s works team.

Now, after two seasons of progress, the Honda power unit is “very, very close” to that of Mercedes, according to Franz Tost, team boss of Red Bull sister team, AlphaTauri.

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Daniel Ricciardo picks Lewis Hamilton over Max Verstappen, Monaco Grand Prix fear, McLaren, F1 dogfight

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Daniel Ricciardo has delivered some bad news for former Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen.

Lewis Hamilton is leading the drivers’ championship as he pushes for an eighth world title, but Verstappen is yapping at his heels. This was the first season in a long time Mercedes was tipped to face a genuine title challenge from Red Bull but Ricciardo says Hamilton is showing why he’s the king, winning three of four races so far.

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“We knew for a long time that this was a little bit a matter of time for Max. We all know what his talent’s like,” Ricciardo said at the launch of McLaren’s special, one-off livery for the upcoming Monaco Grand Prix.

“A lot of people are properly tipping their hat to Lewis. He’s getting it dished back at him and he’s holding his ground and showing people, maybe who doubted him, what he is and why he is as good as he is.”

Asked who he’s tipping to win the F1 war, Ricciardo said Hamilton has the edge.

“At this stage, you’d always, I guess, take experience,” he said.

“So if it was really down to the wire, then I think Lewis has showed some strong signs. But then again, if there’s a gap, Max goes for it. That’s why obviously I respect Max a lot.”

Hamilton is staying one step ahead of Verstappen.Source: Getty Images

Ricciardo’s big concern over F1’s glamour event

Drivers return to the Cote d’Azur this weekend for the first time since 2019 after COVID-19 played havoc with last year’s schedule, and Ricciardo will be looking forward to running around on arguably his favourite track.

He finished second in Monaco in 2016 after a pit stop blunder cost him victory, but bounced back in 2018 to win the prestigious race for the first time in his final season with Red Bull. That was the last time Ricciardo stood on the top step of the podium and he’ll be hoping to repeat the dose this time around.

But he’s not getting too worked up ahead of the Monaco GP, fearful it won’t be the same ritzy event he’s used to because of coronavirus restrictions limiting daily crowd numbers to 7500 and keeping grandstands at 40 per cent capacity.

“I am so excited to go there, but I am a bit scared to not get too excited,” Ricciardo said. “We will have some fans, which is a start.

“The build-up, kind of walking through the crowd and fans to get into the pit lane, into your car — it’s already kind of chaotic before you get into the car, so your heart rate is already up and the circuit’s going to do the rest for you.

“So maybe there will be a little bit more calm before the storm.”

Ricciardo added the whole thing may feel a bit “empty”.

“The whole aura of the boats and everyone and people on the track at the end of the day drinking and partying — not having that to that level will probably feel a little empty but for the in-car stuff I think we’ll probably be OK,” he said.

Ricciardo is still coming to grips with life at McLaren.Source: Getty Images

Ricciardo is still struggling with some aspects of his new McLaren, in particular the brakes locking up. But he showed promising signs by finishing sixth at the Spanish Grand Prix, beating teammate Lando Norris for the first time this year.

However, the adjustment period has Ricciardo feeling “like a beginner” again as McLaren walks him through the steps needed to master the car.

On the weekend, a young woman from Europe detailed the night she spent with Ricciardo while holidaying in Spain two years ago, calling the Honey Badger the “sweetest man on earth”.

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McLaren reveal Gulf Oil livery, photos, Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris

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McLaren will use a one-off retro livery for this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix — but it’s not just the stunning design that will be raising eyebrows.

Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris were on Sunday part of the unveiling for the livery, which will see the drivers race in Monaco in the iconic blue and orange motorsport colours of Gulf Oil.

But in releasing pictures of the livery, McLaren chose to showcase Norris’ car, brandished with the No.4, instead of Ricciardo’s No.3.

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While there’s no suggestion that McLaren are playing favourites on the track, Norris appears to have won out off it in McLaren’s major reveal.

Norris is now in his third season as a full-time McLaren driver, while Ricciardo has just joined from Renault.

The Australian trails Norris in the drivers’ championship by 17 points, although he just put together a strong Spanish Grand Prix, where he finished sixth.

Speaking at the livery’s reveal, Ricciardo said he’s fired up to race in Monaco, although fears an ‘empty’ feeling without many fans present.

“I am like a little bit scared to not get too excited,” Ricciardo said.

“It’s that atmosphere, it’s like the whole aura of boats and everyone, people on the track at the end of the day drinking and partying and I guess not having that or to that level will probably feel a little empty.

“But for the in-car stuff we’ll be OK.”

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French Grand Prix, results, standings, Jack Miller, reaction, weather, rain, Le Mans, Ducati, news, updates

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Australian rider Jack Miller made it back to back wins on his Ducati with a dramatic victory in a windy, rain-strewn French MotoGP at Le Mans on Sunday.

Miller, who won the last race in Spain, finished ahead of French pair Johann Zarco, riding for Ducati’s satellite Pramac team, and Fabio Quartararo, on a Yamaha, who takes over the lead in the championship.

Quartararo, who has won two races this season and started on pole here, has 80 points, one more than Miller’s teammate Francesco Bagnaia who finished fourth.

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Miller qualifies 3rd fastest in France | 01:32

It was a major bonus for the Frenchman, coming just 12 days after undergoing ‘arm pump’ surgery following problems with his right forearm, which saw him slip to a 13th place finish last time out at Jerez.

“I’m so happy, it’s like a victory for me,” said Quartararo whose front tyre was completely worn out at the end of the race.

Zarco is third in the title race with 68 points and Miller is just four points further back, leaving the top four within 16 points of each other ahead of the sixth race of the season at Mugello in Italy on May 30.

“The wind added to the rain and I thought the race was going to be stopped,” said Miller who survived two time penalties to become the first Australian ever to win two successive victories in MotoGP.

“I felt very comfortable. It’s amazing, I can’t believe we have had back to back wins.”

The difficult conditions which saw rain sweeping across the Bugatti circuit led to numerous bikes sliding off the track, leading to a mass bike change for wet tyres when the race went ‘flag to flag’.

Jack Miller took out the win. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
Jack Miller took out the win. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“I know the possibility of a podium is very low,” said Marc Marquez just before the race but when the riders re-emerged after the change of bikes, it was the six-times world champion who took charge.

In his third race back after a year out with injury, Marquez opened up a promising lead before sliding off with 19 laps remaining.

The Spaniard struggled to get his bike upright but remounted and picked his way through the field before sliding off a second time and out of the race.

Miller had made an excellent start taking the lead from pole-sitter Quartararo and these two battled it out for most of the race before and after the bike change.

Both were hit with penalties which allowed Zarco, who was flying after the change, to close up and chase them to the flag.

“Maybe if we had changed bikes a little earlier we could have won the race”, said Zarco.

He did overtake Quartararo but did not have enough in the tank to overhaul Miller who crossed the line over four seconds clear to collect only his third MotoGP victory.

Jack Miller crosses the finish line. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP)Source: AFP

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