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After struggles at the first three races, McLaren F1 boss Andreas Seidl said Daniel Ricciardo’s teething issues at the team were being exaggerated by low-grip circuits.

It’s perhaps little surprise then that races at low-grip street races, Monaco and Azerbaijan, delivered Ricciardo’s worst results of the season on paper.

The Australian was 12th in Monaco and snuck up to ninth in Baku, with some help from late spins from Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

Scroll down for what we learnt from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix!

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Better times could be ahead for Ricciardo.
Better times could be ahead for Ricciardo.Source: Getty Images

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FREAK TWIST CAN’T MASK ANOTHER DANIEL RICCIARDO FAILURE

F1 CHAOS AS ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ FARCE, BRUTAL LATE CRASH SETS UP FINISH NO ONE SAW COMING

‘COULD HAVE LOST HIS LIFE’: F1 BLAME GAME EXPLODES AS FURIOUS DRIVERS REVOLT OVER ‘HORRENDOUS’ FAILURE

Meanwhile, teammate Lando Norris came third and fifth, creating the biggest points gap between the drivers since teaming up this year.

Experience and past successes at Monaco and Azerbaijan — he won at both tracks for Red Bull in 2018 and 2017 respectively — were thought to be of some help to Ricciardo’s acclimatisation process at McLaren.

But sub-par showings at both events, including a crash in qualifying at Baku, have proven just how gruelling that process is.

It’s clear that McLaren’s cars need to be driven in a particular way, while Ricciardo has a trademark style under braking that, so far, hasn’t been compatible.

That gap between how the McLaren wants to be driven and how Ricciardo wants to drive it has only been exacerbated by tricky assignments at the past two races.

In theory, Ricciardo now heads into a friendlier stretch with the French, Styrian, Austrian and British Grands Prix all boasting flowing layouts.

Two of those races — Styria and Austria — will be held at the Red Bull Ring, where two races were held last year, too.

That familiarity should boost Ricciardo’s chances — he was strongest this year in Spain where he’s logged countless laps during pre-season testing.

He’s also working hard in the simulator, which he said was proving to be productive before the Azerbaijan GP.

“It was really just trying to take a step back and understand what’s going on and how the car works and what needs to be done to get the car working well,” he said.

“Certainly some things now do seem more clear to me, and I think it was really productive to do that.

“I’m just looking forward to putting that in play now on track.”

‘FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM’ A STAIN ON MODERN F1

Perez claims wild GP victory! | 03:41

After sudden punctures to Verstappen and Lance Stroll, and after a large cut was found in one of Lewis Hamilton’s tyres, Pirelli’s performance as F1’s sole tyre provider is squarely back in focus.

Since becoming F1’s exclusive provider in 2011, Pirelli has been under pressure to deliver a tyre that can withstand wheel-to-wheel racing, but degrade enough to make two-stop strategies occasionally viable.

Pirelli has never convincingly delivered, and is now under fire for what’s being labelled an “unacceptable” failure in Baku.

Verstappen was four laps from victory when his left-rear blew out at about 320km/h, moments after the same happened to Stroll.

“It’s not acceptable,” Paul di Resta said on Sky Sports, noting that the drivers “don’t like the tyres”.

Verstappen predicted Pirelli would blame debris, adding that the excuse is “a bit hard to accept”.

Sure enough, Pirelli boss Mario Isola was swiftly on the defensive, saying: “I believe I can exclude that failures were due to tyre wear, because it’s not a matter of tyre wear…

“I don’t want to give any preliminary conclusions. But it seems that it is a cut due to debris, because as I said, it’s not the most stressed tyre.”

The issue now is that Pirelli isn’t under any meaningful pressure to provide a valid explanation given it is contracted to be F1’s sole supplier until 2023.

Hamilton recently told Speedweek that Pirelli, however, has long been making a “fundamental” error.

The solution could be to go back to having competing tyre suppliers, Hamilton said.

“We drivers constantly complain that these tires are overheating. We can’t attack constantly, and from my point of view that’s the basis for better sport,” Hamilton told the publication.

“Pirelli is guilty of a fundamental problem. These cars are getting heavier.

“When we had several tire manufacturers in Formula 1 at the time, the racing cars were considerably lighter. But the companies spurred each other on. Today this incentive is missing because we have a sole supplier. It’s only us drivers who put pressure today.”

HAMILTON SHOCKS WITH SLOPPY ERROR

Lewis Hamilton made a surprising rookie error in Baku.Source: Getty Images

Hamilton was ruthless in the first four races of the season, capitalising on errors from Red Bull to seal three wins and another podium.

It’s hard to believe the same driver could only qualify, and finish, seventh at the Monaco Grand Prix and fail to claim any points in Azerbaijan.

In Monaco, Hamilton was at a loss for words to explain why he suddenly was so much slower.

That race could have just been a small blip on the radar of a long season but, on Sunday, Hamilton was guilty of doing something he never does: Compounding an error.

The seven-time world champion had another race win at his mercy after Verstappen’s late puncture.

But at the restart, Hamilton made a surprisingly rookie error by accidentally flicking a “magic” switch that effectively left him without brakes at Turn One.

“Did I leave the magic on? I could have sworn I turned that off,” Hamilton said as he went off, and ended up finishing 15th.

He later added: “On the restart, I think when Checo (Perez) moved over towards me I clipped a switch and it basically switches the brakes off so I just went straight.

“I had no idea that I’d even touched it.”

The result ensured that Verstappen would stay in the championship lead by four points heading into the French Grand Prix.

Miller gets on podium in Barcelona | 01:13

WOLFF VS HORNER SET TO EXPLODE   

A bubbling spat between Mercedes and Red Bull bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner could reach boiling point at the next race as the FIA introduces new testing procedures.

Red Bull has been feeling the heat amid claims — chiefly from Mercedes — that its rear wing breaches technical regulations by flexing at high speeds.

Meanwhile, Horner believes Mercedes is guilty of double standards, suggesting the team’s front wing should also come under the microscope.

“If you’re picking on one end of the car you have to look at the other,” Horner said on Sky Sports after qualifying. “Sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit careful what you wish for.”

“I think if I was Toto with the front wing he’s got on his car, I’d keep my mouth shut.”

In response, Wolff said: “Christian is a bit of a windbag who wants to be on camera.

“It’s about being punchy. It’s easy to be punchy when you are on top of the time sheet, but you should be a little bit more modest I think.”

The time for the war of words, however, is drawing to a close with the FIA set to introduce new wing flexibility tests ahead of the French Grand Prix.

The Red Bull design will therefore be rigorously tested under new procedures and either Horner, or Wolff, will be validated.

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Daniel Ricciardo set for McLaren boost in triple header, Lando Norris

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Three races in three weeks is a gruelling prospect for most F1 drivers, but Daniel Ricciardo believes the chaotic schedule is exactly what he needs to “fast track” his progress at McLaren.

Ricciardo’s transition from Renault to McLaren — his third team in four seasons — is proving to be tricky as he tries to come to terms with the car’s unique driving demands.

Difficult assignments at low-grip street circuits Monaco and Baku led to the widening of the gap between the Australian and his teammate Lando Norris, who has 40 more championship points after six races.

But the French, Styrian and Austrian Grands Prix — all at conventional, purpose-built circuits — will take place on consecutive weekends, allowing Ricciardo to log valuable track time in a condensed period.

Stream Every Practice, Qualifier & Race of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship™ Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >

Perez claims wild GP victory! | 03:41

“(I’m) looking forward to a triple-header actually,” he said per the F1 website. “Getting into a rhythm, getting into three races in a row. Bit more conventional, bit more run-off room, won’t do us any harm.

“When you’re trying to learn any sport, the best way to learn is practice and doing it and that’s the unique thing with our sport, we can’t do it every day, we can’t just go out tomorrow and go and run a few laps, so I think having three consecutive weekends and putting in the practice consecutively will fast-track my progress.

“We’ve got the simulator and these things help but in the simulator, the walls don’t hurt. So it’s never quite the same.”

Ricciardo crashed during qualifying in Azerbaijan with the 13th-fastest time before he finished the race in ninth.

Asked if he could take comfort in the result, he said: “I can. Just getting the laps in and completing the race – that sounds so basic – but just to keep learning with the car.

“I think there’s moments in the race that took a bit more from it but I think that’s important and yes, a couple of points.”

The French Grand Prix is on June 20 before the Styrian GP on June 27th, and Austrian Grand Prix on July 4.

Verstappen crashes out from FIRST! | 00:48

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Daniel Ricciardo Azerbaijan GP result, Mansour Ojjeh dies, Lewis Hamilton reacts

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A devastated Daniel Ricciardo has paid tribute to Mansour Ojjeh after the McLaren and motorsport icon died aged 68 on the weekend.

Ojjeh was McLaren’s major shareholder, having bought into the team in 1984 with former partner Ron Dennis, and helped establish it as one of the major forces in F1 during a near 40-year association.

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Ahead of last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, McLaren announced Ojjeh died peacefully in Geneva, surrounded by his family. Team boss Zak Brown said the billionaire’s death “had devastated everyone” at the team.

“Mansour has been etched into the heart and soul of this team for nearly 40 years and was intrinsic to its success,” Brown said.

“He was a true racer in every sense. Ultra-competitive, determined, passionate and, above all, perhaps his defining characteristic: sporting.

“No matter the intensity of the battle, Mansour always put sport first.”

Ricciardo was gutted by Ojjeh’s passing, taking to Instagram to say how much he’ll miss him.

“We lost a great man over the weekend. Many of us knew Mansour and shared some great moments with him,” Ricciardo wrote. “Honestly can’t say enough good things. Gonna miss you mate.”

After the race in Baku, which saw Ricciardo finish ninth, the Aussie added: “I also just want to pay tribute to Mansour and send my condolences to (wife) Kathy and his entire family. He made a massive contribution to both McLaren and the entire sport, and he will be greatly missed.”

With Mansour on board McLaren won seven of its eight constructors’ world titles since 1984 and 10 of their 12 drivers’ crowns.

Lewis Hamilton, who won the first of his seven world titles at McLaren, said before the start of Sunday’s grand prix in Baku: “I carry a heavy heart into the race after the loss of a close friend, Mansour Ojjeh.

“He had the biggest heart and always carried the biggest smile. I am so grateful to have known such a man. This man loved unconditionally. Rest in peace brother, love you always.”

Ojjeh (L) was synonymous with McLaren. (Photo by MAURICIO LIMA / AFP)Source: AFP
Ricciardo paid tribute to a great McLaren man (far right).Source: Instagram

Qualifying blunder costs Ricciardo badly

A crash in qualifying saw Ricciardo start the Azerbaijan GP 13th on the grid but thanks to late fireworks that saw Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen crash out, he was able to climb up into the points. The West Australian was still well behind McLaren teammate Lando Norris though as the young Brit crossed the line in fifth.

“There were moments today in the race where I was thinking, ‘I hope it becomes a bit more exciting’ and suddenly it did,” Ricciardo said.

“We had some positive moments, but also a few difficult periods. I flat-spotted the hard (tyres) a bit, so that became tricky for the last few laps before the red flag, but not too bad beforehand.

“The last start, I felt like I got a good launch, and had a good run on the outside but there wasn’t really much room with a couple of cars on the inside. It just all bottlenecked into Turn Two and I felt a hit from behind. I couldn’t really do much, but we’ll keep working on our plan and keep moving forward.”

Ricciardo was realistic about his chances in the race after putting himself on the back foot with that crash in qualifying.

“It was Baku really, what can you say?” Ricciardo added. “It’s a weekend where you always have highs and lows and you know, Saturday (qualifying) was frustrating … you never feel good crashing the car, gives the mechanics extra work and I don’t like doing that because I’m a nice guy.

“I wasn’t mad because I was trying to find the limit so I’m glad that I explored but obviously this track bites.

“We’ll be able to explore a bit more in the triple header and a bit more open, bit more forgiving. We got double points, we survived a crazy race.”

Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t make many inroads at Baku (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images).Source: Getty Images

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Bathurst 1000, Greg Murphy, Richie Stanaway, wildcard

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Greg Murphy doesn’t just go down in the history books for being a four-time Bathurst 1000 winner.

He’s also remembered for one of Australian sport’s great face-offs.

A year after claiming his first – and last – Bathurst 1000, Murphy and Marcos Ambrose, were involved in a heated spat, where fingers flew and choice words were said after making contact on lap 145 and blocking the entire road.

It left Mark Skaife cruise to victory, as Ambrose trudged off and walked back to the pits while Murphy picked up the scraps.

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Ford driver Marcos Ambrose (L) and Holden driver Greg Murphy confrontation after being involved in a major pile up incident in 2005.Source: News Limited

Now, what started as a “tongue-in-cheek” comment has seen two legends of Supercars racing return for October’s Bathurst 1000, after Murphy and compatriot Richie Stanaway were granted wildcards and will come out of retirement.

Sixteen years after the infamous moment, the anger has simmered and Murphy is just happy to be going round Mount Panorama one more time.

“All of a sudden here’s a group of people who are wanting and willing to make this happen,” Murphy said.

“I’m very fortunate and lucky to be presented with the opportunity to go back and race at a place that means so much to me.”

Supercars legend Greg Murphy (left) is making a sensational comeback to the sport alongside Richie Stanaway.Source: Supplied

Murphy and Stanaway will run Murphy’s iconic #51, a number he carried full time from 2001 – 2012.

“The number 51 has become a signature that has been associated with me and my career for quite some time so it will be cool to bring it back,” Murphy said.

“Peter (Adderton) played a significant role in how I came to be a full-time professional race car driver and now we are back here doing this together.

“Barry (Ryan) and I have worked together several times and we have a great respect for each other. It’s going to be fun to go back and reminisce on some of the stories and memories that we’ve had in the past and I’m looking forward to the journey.”

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Greg Murphy (R) and Rick Kelly (L) celebrate their win in the V8 Supercar Series at Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Pic Brett Costello.Source: News Corp Australia

Murphy and Boost Mobile owner Peter Adderton’s long-standing relationship stems back to 1994 in both the Australian Manufacturer’s and Australian Drivers Championships, before he became Boost Mobile’s earliest motorsport ambassador.

Stanaway also raced under the Boost Mobile banner during stints at Tickford Racing in 2018, and Garry Rogers Motorsport in 2019.

The global telecommunications brand also supported Stanaway during his 2017 endurance campaign, where he drove to victory at the Sandown 500 with Cameron Waters.

“At first I didn’t think Pete was being serious, like a lot of people but then he reached out to me,” Stanaway said.

“I’ve had a really good relationship with Boost, it’s been great to have a sponsor that’s supported me and believed in me.

“I’m really grateful for their support and I’m glad we’re going ahead with it because I’m really looking forward to it.”

“Murph has always been a big inspiration of mine and driving with Murph is one of the big reasons why I want to come back.

“It’s cool to have someone of his calibre back in the car at the biggest race of the year.

“Erebus are a team I’ve always admired, and they’ve done a great job over the past few years so I’m really looking forward to seeing what it’s all like from the inside.”

Richie Stanaway was on his way to the F1 earlier in his career. Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.Source: Supplied

The announcement comes after months of campaigning from fans after Adderton floated the idea on social media back in April.

“Originally the idea was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the fan reaction has been incredible, so I wanted to make this team happen for them (the fans),” Adderton said.

“I got on the phone to Greg and Richie and although they initially weren’t interested, it didn’t take too long for them to see what we were trying to do and for them to change their minds.

“We have an incredible relationship with the team at Erebus and Barry (Ryan) understands better than most that the entertainment and fans are key to Supercars’ success.”

Erebus will field three cars for the first time since the team’s inception in 2013, though it’s not the first time the idea has been floated.

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FREAK TWIST CAN’T MASK ANOTHER DANIEL RICCIARDO FAILURE

F1 CHAOS AS ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ FARCE, BRUTAL LATE CRASH SETS UP FINISH NO ONE SAW COMING

‘COULD HAVE LOST HIS LIFE’: F1 BLAME GAME EXPLODES AS FURIOUS DRIVERS REVOLT OVER ‘HORRENDOUS’ FAILURE

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