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Max Verstappen subtle sledge at Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Mexican Grand Prix

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Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen has suggested Daniel Ricciardo would have struggled to match him if the Australian stayed at Red Bull.

Verstappen joined Red Bull from Toro Rosso in 2016, and immediately proved his worth by winning the Spanish Grand Prix on debut.

The Dutch driver continued to improve throughout the 2016 and 2017 seasons, but the young gun was bettered by Ricciardo on the drivers’ standings in consecutive years.

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However, Verstappen finally got the wood over the Australian in 2018, finishing the championship with nine more podium finishes than his experienced teammate.

Ricciardo jumped ship and joined Renault ahead of the 2019 season, a move which team principal Christian Horner described as “running away from a fight”, before signing for McLaren after an underwhelming two-year stint with the French manufacturer.

Red Bull struggled to find a worthy replacement after Ricciardo’s departure, trialling Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon before settling on Mexican veteran Sergio Perez.

Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo speaking ahead of the United States Grand Prix last month. Photo by Mark Sutton – Pool/Getty Images
Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo speaking ahead of the United States Grand Prix last month. Photo by Mark Sutton – Pool/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Speaking to GP Racing, Verstappen quashed suggestions that Ricciardo was the only driver who could match him in the Red Bull car.

“I think I also got better eventually, because I have more and more experience,” Verstappen said. “So I find it also difficult to really compare fairly, you know.

“I find it a bit unfair to say that he was maybe more close, and I think there are a lot of things to it. For sure, at the time, Daniel is, you know … He’s still quite a bit older and more experienced.

“But I think I gained a lot of experience in the last few years, while in the beginning of course I was still quite new and I didn’t really have a lot of car racing experience, because I had one year in F3, basically one year in Toro Rosso and then moved to Red Bull.

“And I definitely think there the big jump started to happen, which I think is a natural process in the first five years of your F1 career.”

Verstappen is currently competing in his sixth season of F1, battling with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton for the coveted title.

The 24-year-old leads Hamilton by 12 points heading into the Mexican Grand Prix, which is scheduled to get underway at 6am AEDT on Monday.

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Aussie snowboarding star Scotty James engaged to F1 heiress Chloe Stroll, Lance Stroll, Lawrence Stroll, Winter Olympics

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Australian snowboarder Scotty James has announced he is engaged to Canadian singer and F1 heiress Chloe Stroll.

James got down on one knee in the snow in Switzerland, where he is training in preparation for February’s Winter Olympics.

The couple, who celebrated their two year anniversary in April, announced the happy news on Monday on their respective social media accounts.

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“Hey, we’re getting married … everyone this is my fiancée,” James said in a video posted to his Instagram.

“This is my fiancé,” Stroll screamed in delight in the video.

She captioned her post: “Forever” accompanied by a ring emoji, along with a photo of the moment James proposed in the snow.

Scotty James popped the question to Chloe Stroll in Switzerland.Source: Supplied
Chloe Stroll is an aspiring musician.Source: Instagram

Stroll is the sister of Aston Martin Formula One driver Lance Stroll and daughter of Lawrence Stroll, the executive chairman of Aston Martin’s F1 team. He is believed to be worth AUD $4.2 billion.

Chloe recently revealed Lance had actually set her up with Scotty and they met in New York.

“Lance actually called me and said, ‘I think I just found the guy you’re going to marry’,” she told the Herald Sun.

“It was kind of strange. I had a conference in Park City (Utah), which was where his next competition was the same weekend and a lot of random things happened.

“Scotty was very cute. We dated for about four months, or as he likes to say, we got to know each other, before he officially asked me to be his girlfriend.”

“I just connected with her in New York and went out to dinner with her at a place called Motel Morris in Chelsea and the rest is history,’’ James recalled.

“She’s quite a talented musician.

“It’s been really cool watching her do her thing. She’s always had a huge passion for music and it’s the industry she wants to be a part of. She’s really enjoying it.”

James was Australia’s flag-bearer at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, where he won a bronze medal in the halfpipe.

The 27-year-old is aiming to do even better at the 2022 Games in just a few months in Beijing.

“It’s the elephant in the room at the moment but I’m very excited for the Games and feeling really good on my snowboard and I’ve got an amazing team behind me,’’ James said.

“To be the best snowboarder that I can, right now I’m really happy and healthy so we’ll see what happens.”

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schedule, how to watch, preview, news, Craig Lowndes debut, Fox Motorsport, time

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It was the stunning Bathurst debut that almost never happened.

Back in 1994, a then 20-year-old Craig Lowndes took the motorsports world by storm.

Lowndes may now be a household name but at that point he was a relatively unknown prospect, tasked with challenging already established drivers John Bowe and Dick Johnson.

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If Holden Racing Team owner Tom Walkinshaw had the final call, Lowndes’ debut would have never happened.

For Walkinshaw, German Armin Hahne was preferred as the last-minute substitute alongside lead drive Brad Jones.

Yet when Rickard Rydell was a late withdrawal, former manager Jeff Grech got his way and had Lowndes earn his first opportunity at Bathurst.

It was on that day that a star was born and the Lowndes legend found its roots.

“I wasn’t meant to finish the race,” Lowndes said on Fox Motorsports’ ‘Lowndes at The Mountain’ with Jess Yates.

“It was always earmarked for Brad [Jones], he was the lead driver.

“I remember going to Bathurst, I’d only been there once in a production car so I’d never really driven a supercar around there at the time. I struggled.

“I think even Brad was even shaking his head thinking: ‘Why have they put this young kid in there with me’. This was actually for me when it all turned around.

“Peter Brock sat me down and talked me through a lap of Bathurst. From that moment on it all went from strength to strength for me. This was me jumping in and having the fight of my life in ultimately what kickstarted my career.”

Johnson and Bowe would end up winning the race, with the Lowndes finishing in second but it was not without a fight from the then-rookie challenger.

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“[The battle was] incredible,” Lowndes said.

“It was one of those moments where it goes down in history. To go toe-to-toe with John. I’d looked up to these guys, even Peter Brock, Dick Johnson, John Bowe, it was everyone and anyone there. The battle was immense.

“I was so nervous to make a mistake. Going across the top of the mountain it was just trying to pinpoint where Peter had told me to place the car, to flow the car, doing everything right. I started to focus on his [Bowe’s] lines and what he was doing.”

Lowndes struggled to recall much about his time on the podium or what exactly he said.

“I cannot remember a word,” he laughed.

He can remember one detail though.

“I was talking 100 miles an hour,” he said.

“I was so excited and at that point it really set my career up. But again, 12 months prior I was sitting at home waiting for an opportunity.”

There is just the one rookie who will get that opportunity this weekend – Tickford Racing’s Zak Best.

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F1 news 2021, Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, results, drivers championship, race wins, next season, 2022, new rules

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Sitting eighth in the drivers championship, 48 points behind his teammate and without a top-10 finish in four of his last five races is hardly how Daniel Ricciardo wanted his record to read with two races to go in his first season as a McLaren driver.

But that’s where he is, behind Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc – the two men who pipped him for the seat at Ferrari each time he has been looking to move teams – and behind Lando Norris, who is 10 years his junior and expected to play second fiddle to the Aussie this season.

With just the Saudi Arabian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix remaining, Norris holds an unassailable 14-6 head-to-head lead in races across the season, at one point holding a commanding 9-1 lead.

In qualifying, Norris has been nearly as dominant, this time holding a 12-8 head-to-head lead over Ricciardo, including a pole position. Norris also has four podiums to his name to Ricciardo’s one.

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(Photo by Joe Portlock/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Portlock/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

In short, Ricciardo has been completely outdriven and outmanoeuvred by his junior teammate and is on his worst run of consecutive finishes since 2019 thanks to a series of car issues, culminating with a disappointing P12 in Qatar last weekend.

“We had a few things going on,” he said on Monday morning (AEDT). “So already from Lap 1, I had some fuel warnings on the dash which you don’t get on Lap 1, so I ignored it, because I thought okay, it’s just an error in the dash.

“But then quite early, I was told that you need to seriously start saving fuel. I saved quite a lot, like already what I thought was too much, and I was told it’s not enough, it’s not enough, to the point where we were… probably going two seconds a lap slower. And with that, tyres get cold, brakes get cold, so you lose even more ultimately.

“So I was kind of thinking, what’s the point of staying out, because obviously there’s an error and maybe we just messed up but we’re just cruising.

“It was painful and it’s just obviously something that’s gone wrong in the data or the calculations today and we were getting the wrong information.”

But if you can look past the numbers and the current frustration, this would have been Ricciardo’s favourite season since he left Red Bull, because it’s the first time he’s stood on the top step of the podium since his famous win in Monaco.

He ended McLaren’s long wait for a win and etched his name on the wall of history of one of F1’s most recognisable teams.

He was brilliant that weekend, finishing on the podium in the sprint race and being a contender throughout every practice and qualifying session. There was just an inevitability about him at Monza that weekend that something special was going to happen.

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Ricciardo can still be that good and if there is one thing we have learned from his time with Renault, it’s that a poor and frustrating season is the perfect match to light the fire for the following year.

After a very average debut year where he only scored one top-five finish for the team now known as Alpine, he drove out of his skin in his second season, earning two podiums and seven top-five finishes.

“The winter can’t come soon enough for him to regroup and just work out for him how he’s going to, with McLaren, just unlock a bit more performance for himself,” nine-time race winner and fellow Aussie Mark Webber told AAP.

“You don’t forget how to drive quickly overnight but for whatever reason he hasn’t clicked at the moment.

“Daniel, when he does, we saw it, it’s in there and when he does he’s very, very special. McLaren would struggle to have someone better for the brand. He’s so good for the sport.

“He had a problem (in Qatar) with the car which would sort of amplify his issues.

“In a technical sport, it’s easy to get brought undone and people don’t understand the full scenario of what’s going on but by Daniel’s incredibly high standards – this is a race winner, this is a guy that he’s been on the middle step quite a few times and plenty of podiums – so he knows how to have success at that level.

“By his own admission, of course, it’s been a challenging year for him in this car. Hopefully, he can finish the year with some strong results.”

(Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

And while Ricciardo is off mentally regrouping, his McLaren team will be providing him with all of the tools to put his hunger to good use.

Both Ricciardo and Norris have had car troubles over the last three races, with the team being overtaken by Ferrari in the constructors championship after the two drivers could only muster four points between them in that period.

But that is arguably a good sign for the season to come, with McLaren clearly not delegating too many resources into resolving the current car’s issues.

While Mercedes and Red Bull are putting all of their efforts into the current title race where they are still battling for both the constructors and drivers championships, McLaren can afford to turn their attention to next season, when a whole new generation of F1 cars will debut.

It’s a clean slate for all of the teams, with F1 introducing stricter spending caps in order to level the playing field, and McLaren are able to steal a march on their rivals by beginning work on the 2022 car.

Through his own admission, it took Ricciardo a while to get to grips with the McLaren and once the training wheels were taken off, he won a race and finished fourth in the next before car problems kicked in and sparked his current downward spiral.

But he will be ready for next season and McLaren will have used the extra time to be as well prepared as any team on the grid.

McLaren and Ricciardo are unlikely to have to wait so long for another race win from here.

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