A Hot Start in Australia: A New-Look Formula 1 Will Heat Melbourne Up

Australian Grand Prix 2019

It’s been a long time since we saw any high-speed racing action, so it’s definitely a great feeling for many motorsport fans to finally see the return of the Formula 1 season this weekend. The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit will once again roar to life as twenty drivers battle for the right to be called the fastest.

However, the return of the motorsport league we all know and love comes with several changes. While the usual suspects are still the favourites to win the competition, a reshuffle has changed the way the entire grid will look and feel.

Depending on which team or driver your support, you may see your chances improve or worsen during the preseason. We still don’t know what will happen until the chequered flag is waved, though, so it’s best to reconsider your Formula 1 2019 predictions as we take a look at the current F1 landscape.

Talking Points

Will this finally be Vettel’s year?

One of the most prevalent storylines of this year is Sebastian Vettel and his chase for another Formula 1 championship.

Many fans will look at the 2018 season and see a Ferrari team that went toe-to-toe with Mercedes in the early half of the season. Unfortunately, they faltered in the latter stages and had to bitterly look on as Lewis Hamilton and the Silver Arrows added another world championship under their belt.

The comedy of errors that plagued the Prancing Horse was not only limited to crashes and mechanical troubles. They didn’t give their star German the support they could have provided to improve his chances. Kimi Raikkonen was also a huge part of the problem for Vettel, and it was evident on the race track as the Flying Finn openly challenged team orders at times.

Fortunately for Vettel, things are looking better for the Scuderia. Mattia Binotto is the new team principal, an exciting upstart in Charles Leclerc is now the team’s second driver, and their machines outpaced their rivals in pre-season testing.

Vettel is confident of the team’s chances moving forward. Their shot at the title will now be up to them not messing up their races throughout the season.

Hamilton will be in for a tough test

Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton is focused ahead of the Australian Grand Prix

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton poses for a photo during an Australian Grand Prix pre-weekend event

Lewis Hamilton will always be a favourite among the many us tips made at this point of the season. The Brit has proven himself as a winner and will surely be able to compete with Ferrari and any other racing team.

The Mercedes star overturned a subpar start to 2018 and pulled off a series of wins that helped him win the Driver’s Championship in Mexico. He will be coming to this season as the most accomplished driver in the grid; he also knows that there will be a huge target on his back in every single race.

Hamilton should have enough to help with the pressure, though. Valtteri Bottas has shown a lot of chemistry with his co-driver, and we can expect more fantastic work from the two of them. Mercedes have also made structural changes in their chain of command to help the team perform better.

The Brit will always be a fast one on the tracks, and they will need something to catch off track in Melbourne.

Same faces, different places

Vettel and Hamilton may dominate a lot of Formula 1 2019 news circles, but they aren’t the only ones that have grabbed the attention. There are a number of stories that will shape how the season pans out.

The first race of the season will start on a somber note as long-time FIA race director Charlie Whiting passed away three days before the race began. There will most likely be a tribute for Whiting before the race begins.

A familiar name returns to the Formula 1 scene as Alfa Rome take Sauber’s place. There was also quite a shuffle as every team sans Mercedes and Haas made changes to their line-ups. The most notable swaps were Ricciardo’s move to Renault and Raikkonen becoming the lead driver at Alfa Romeo.

Ricciardo’s departure also gives Max Verstappen the keys to the kingdom that is Red Bull. This team is still far from catching up to the leaders, but they may reach places with Verstappen being the clear No 1 driver.

History

Of the 20 drivers participating in the starting grid, only three men have won in Melbourne. Raikkonen won twice in 2007 and 2013; Hamilton took the 2008 and 2015 races while Vettel finished first in the 2011, 2017, and 2018 races.

The 2018 race was an interesting spectacle in itself. Hamilton was actually ahead for much of the race, but a bit of luck saw Vettel make a quick pit stop that eventually helped him stay ahead of Hamilton and win the race. We may see a similar situation here, but the playing field is more even due to the roster changes.

What are the odds?

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel remains determined to challenge Lewis Hamilton in this year's Formula 1 season

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in action during the Formula 1 pre-season testing session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack

The usual suspects are booked as favourites to finish at the top of the podium, but there’s one name that is surprisingly included at the top.

Leclerc is tipped at 3.50 to win this race, and Hamilton and Vettel — who are both booked at 2.50 — are the only other drivers to have odds lower than the former Sauber driver. It will be intriguing to see how the Frenchman performs with Ferrari’s powerful engine.

Verstappen is the fourth-favourite to win at 11.00, and the ever-dependable Bottas is up at 13.00. However, I believe that Bottas should have what it takes to finish third in the podium and make life a living hell for Vettel.

Due to Ricciardo’s risky move to Renault, he dropped down to 201.00. Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly is upgraded to 41.00. Whether Red Bull manage to keep it up with the other two is up in the air, though: Honda-powered cars have been plagued by reliability issues, and it will be curious to see how they handle the engine throughout the season.

 

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Oui to Speed: Canada Welcomes the Speedy Formula 1

Formula 1 Grand Prix Heineken Du Canada 2018

It’s been two months since the world saw any Formula 1 updates from us, but the fun now continues!

The Formula 1 season continues to gain speed as the more interesting tracks edge closer. Fans will be looking forward to how the world’s fastest drivers will be able to speed through the unique challenges of each race track.

One of the more interesting tracks in the calendar is the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. The combination of straights and chicanes make for an interesting track, and an interesting track is all we need to make the Driver Championships and the season a lot more interesting!

There is a lot to talk about in this race because this could be the track that will change the landscape of the season for Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

Talking Points

The biggest conversation starter among Formula 1 fans that talk about the Canadian Grand Prix is the delayed engine upgrade that was supposed to happen for Mercedes.

Ferrari and Red Bull have both made engine upgrades in time for Montreal, meaning that Daniel Ricciardo’s already-impressive run at Monaco is only bound to get faster. This becomes a lot more problematic when the nature of the track is heavily considered. The somewhat narrow track is full of long straights and chicanes that require power to make the most of the exits.

With that being said, the fact that Mercedes have postponed the rollout of the new engine worries Hamilton to the point that he thinks that he is facing a difficult weekend ahead.

“If the others are bringing upgrades and have fresh engines, we won’t be in a position to fight,” said Hamilton.

“It is a power circuit. There is power loss over the life of an engine. All I am hoping for is reliability. If I am on the seventh race, with a power difficult circuit, I just want to see it through.”

Ferrari are doing fantastically well on the straights and Red Bull are steadily catching up to the two leaders in terms of results. Given the structure of the race, it will be understandably hard to Mercedes to try and keep the lead on the constructor and driver standing.

However, Red Bull’s Ricciardo still believes that everyone is still chasing the back of the German carmaker. Given how attuned Hamilton is to the track, it wouldn’t be surprising for the Australian to see Hamilton at the top once again.

“I think Mercedes are going to be quick tomorrow for sure,” he told Sky Sports in an interview. “I’d say they’re the ones to beat at the moment.”

In other news, McLaren driver Fernando Alonso continues to expand his legacy as he becomes the fourth Formula 1 driver to compete in 300 race weekends. It is still unclear as to whether the Spaniard will call it a day after this season is over, but the Spaniard is just proud of what he’s achieved with his career so far.

Sports betting experts believe that Fernando Alonso can win the Canadian GP

Fernando Alonso prepares for his 300th career race ahead of the Canadian GP

“I am one of the best to have faced in F1,” Alonso said proudly. “I am probably not fastest in qualifying, or the wet, but I am 9.5 in all areas. I will try to benefit from that.”

Alonso has won 32 grand prix victories and two world titles, a career that anyone would be proud of. Should the Spaniard decide to hang his gloves by the door at the end of the season, the F1 will say farewell to a fantastic driver that gave them some of the most memorable moments in the sport.

History

Hamilton is the obvious favourite among the us motorsport experts after winning five of the last eight races last year. He is one victory away from matching Michael Schumacher’s record of seven wins in the track.

Ferrari and McLaren are still tied at the top of the tally for most wins on the track. While Sebastian Vettel isn’t confident that they will emerge victorious on this track, their prior experience in Canada offers a lot of encouraging signs towards the German.

If we look at the way the season has been set up, there is a good chance for Vettel, Hamilton and Ricciardo to win the race. The three drivers have been performing well as the lead drivers of their respective teams. While everything still hinges on where they will end up after qualifying, the three drivers will definitely make quick work of the pack and duke it out for the title.

What are the Odds?

Hamilton receives the best outright odds of 2.00 as he is the master of the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. Vettel is not a far second with 2.50, and Max Verstappen is third-favourite with his 6.50. I think Daniel Ricciardo is worth a punt with his 11.00 outright odds if you think the Aussie is not done surprising fans.

Betting websites believe that Daniel Ricciardo can make it back-to-back podium finishes

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates his win in the Monaco Grand Prix

When it comes to the Top 3 Drivers Market, it’s best to put your money on Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen, both at 2.50. The two have performed well this season and it won’t be surprising to find either of them in the Top 3. Valtteri Bottas (2.50) is also worth a shout.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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Perfect Payback: Ricciardo Dominates for First Monaco Win

2018 Monaco Grand Prix

Heading to the Monaco Grand Prix, Red Bull star Daniel Ricciardo had only one thing in mind: payback.

After missing out on the win in 2016 following a bungled pit-stop, the big-smiling Australian returned to Circuit de Monaco as a man on a mission. And fortunately, he was able to get the job done this time despite an engine problem that threatened his chances and brought back memories of the events two years ago.

While the tournament provided little action, no thanks to the nature of the circuit, it isn’t without talking points as Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso managed to take the spotlight with their post-match comments about the “most boring race ever.”

Highlights of the game

It was a masterful race from Ricciardo as he led from start to finish to put the Monaco Grand Prix results beyond doubt.

After an impressive performance during the practice session and qualifying, the 28-year-old Perth native entered the race as the favourite. He then made sure to delight his supporters, securing the top spot and finishing well ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Hamilton.

It was far from a straightforward victory for Ricciardo though as the race that looked to be heading into an easy win was suddenly filled with troubles. On Lap 28, ten laps after making his pit-stop, Ricciardo noticed an engine problem and saw his three-second lead over Vettel reduced to nothing.

As it turns out, Ricciardo lost the MGU-K which reduced his car’s power by about 25 percent. To put that into perspective, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said that the drop in performance was worth 2.5 seconds per lap—that and Ricciardo still has 50 laps to go!

Despite the issue, however, Ricciardo showed great composure and remarkable control over his car. He managed his engine problem well while ensuring that Vettel did not get close enough to try and overtake him.

Monaco Grand Prix Results: Daniel Ricciardo remains positive despite engine problems to seal a win at Monte Carlo

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo in action during the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix

“Two years later I finally feel like redemption has arrived,” Ricciardo said after the difficult win. “We had a lot to deal with during the race. I felt loss of power and I thought the race was done. I got home just using six gears. Thanks to the team I got it back.”

“There were a few doubts getting it to the end of the race but we won Monaco.”

The win is Ricciardo’s first in Monaco and second this season after taking the Chinese Grand Prix title earlier last month.

Key statistics

Ricciardo finished the race 7.3 seconds clear of Vettel who ended up second. Hamilton, meanwhile, was third and 17 seconds behind in a largely dull competition. In fact, the top six drivers finished in the same order they started from the grid, with Kimi Raikkonen securing fourth followed by Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon.

Furthermore, in our preview of the race which cited the Monaco Grand Prix betting odds, except for Max Verstappen, the drivers finished as predicted.

Circuit de Monaco is known for its tight track which makes overtaking hard or nearly impossible, so the outcome isn’t surprising at all.

However, Hamilton and Alonso, who failed to complete the race due to a gearbox failure, were critical of the competition and called it a “boring” race.

“We are driving at high speed, there is not a lot of action, you’re just trying to bring it home, for 56 laps. Oh my God, it was long,” Hamilton explained. “Forty laps to go, I was like, Oh God, please. When it finished, I was like, ‘thank goodness’.”

Meanwhile, Alonso added: “This is probably the most boring race ever. Without a safety car, without yellow flags, I think the sport needs to think a little bit about the show because this is very disappointing.”

What’s next?

With the win, Ricciardo toppled Mercedes’ Bottas for third in the driver standings. He now has 72 points but still way behind Hamilton and Vettel.

After his failure in Spain a couple of weeks ago, Ferrari’s Vettel would be happy with the result as he cut Hamilton’s lead to just 14 points.

Monaco Grand Prix Results: Sebastian Vettel finishes behind Daniel Ricciardo while Lewis Hamilton ends up third

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel stands along Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton during the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix

Meanwhile, Mercedes remain the team to beat for the constructors’ championship, leading by 178 points followed by Ferrari (156) and Red Bull (107).

Next up is the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve where Mercedes will look to defend their title. The team bagged a one-two finish in last year’s edition of the race, with Hamilton cruising to a comfortable win.

Moreover, despite failing to get into the podium in last year’s tournament, Ferrari are expected to fight for the Montreal title, at least according to the latest Canadian Grand Prix outright odds.

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Surprise! Ricciardo Delights in Exciting China Clash!

It was a great day for Red Bull Racing after both of their drivers finished in the top five of the action-packed Chinese Grand Prix, with Daniel Ricciardo even surprising betting websites as he took the Shanghai title.

Red Bull, indeed, had a weekend to remember especially after a poor showing in Bahrain where Ricciardo and teammate Max Verstappen retired early to the disappointment of sports betting fans.

Pre-race betting odds had the usual suspects, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, as the clear favourites to win. However, Red Bull and Ricciardo displayed a great tactical masterstroke in the final 25 laps to clinch the title.

Valtteri Bottas was pulling away from the chasing pack midway through the race until a safety car period—introduced on Lap 31 to clear debris from the collision between Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Brendon Harley—gave Red Bull the opening.

The team took a gamble and instructed Ricciardo and Verstappen to dive into the pits to switch to fresh soft rubber tyres, which eventually gave their drivers the decisive pace advantage.

A hot-headed Verstappen went ahead of Ricciardo but blew his chance of victory after colliding with Vettel in an attempt to overtake Hamilton.

Ricciardo, in contrast, kept his composure and surpassed Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton and Vettel before taking on Bottas for a sensational win.

Bottas eventually finished second while Raikkonen ended up third. Furthermore, Hamilton moved up to fourth after Max Verstappen was given a 10-second penalty for his move that led to his collision with Vettel.

Speaking of which, the German Ferrari ace fell to seventh after the accident and ended up eighth as  McLaren’s Fernando Alonso took the position in the final two laps of the race.

The race result blew the championship wide open. Ricciardo moved up to fourth, seven points behind second-placed Hamilton and three below Bottas. Vettel, on the other hand, remained at the top, but his lead over Hamilton is down to just nine points.

On the constructor standings, the Silver Arrows (85 points) moved ahead of the Prancing Horse (84), while Red Bull (55) are a far-off 30 points behind of the leaders.

Next up is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix where Ferrari will look to take advantage of the long straights to re-establish their lead.

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Ready for Australia: It’s a New and Exciting F1 Season!

The 2018 Formula One campaign is set to start at Albert Park this week with millions of sports betting fans around the world anticipating an action-packed race.

Numerous rule changes have been put into effect this year that will certainly affect the betting odds on the drivers and constructors. Most notably, the number of power units allowed per driver was reduced from four to three, thereby emphasising the need for engine reliability.

Pre-season testing in Spain has also ended a couple of weeks ago, ensuring that both drivers and their cars are ready for the big live betting affair.

Australian Grand Prix

As expected, Mercedes and star man Lewis Hamilton are the favourites to win in Melbourne. The Silver Arrows have dominated F1 the past four years and are now aiming for an unprecedented feat of a fifth straight drivers’ and constructors’ championship double.

Also, Hamilton could become only the third driver in F1 history to win five titles—a result which would earn him motorsport immortality alongside Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio.

The British star can make a statement in the Australian GP, and he is at odds of 1.70 to do just that.

However, it won’t be as easy as it sounds, especially with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff predicting a three-way battle between his team, Ferrari and Red Bull this campaign.

Hamilton’s biggest threat in Australia is Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who is the second favourite to win at 4.50. The German was neck and neck with the Brit last season and was even on the lead up until the second half of the campaign.

Vettel heads into Melbourne after a remarkable pre-season testing that saw him record the best time in Barcelona. And he’ll be high in confidence knowing that he won the opening race last year with a nine-second lead over Hamilton.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (6.00) and Daniel Ricciardo (8.00), of course, shouldn’t be counted out. Not with their new Renault-powered RB14 that has been impressive so far.

Even Hamilton is cautious of the Red Bull driver as he cited that they thrive in a “high downforce circuit” like Albert Park.

There’s also the fact that home-hero Ricciardo, in his contract year, will be looking to impress.

Besides the four drivers, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas (7.00), Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen (23.00) and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso (53.00) could well be in the running for a podium finish, especially if they get good results in the qualifying sessions.

The Australian race is still expected to be much closer, thanks to the track that features a mix of braking and quick sections as well as tighter parts that require good traction. With that said, drivers from Renault, Haas, Force India, Williams, Toro Rosso and Sauber could also find some opportunities to break into the top spots.

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What a Beautiful Day for Red Bull in Malaysia!

The sun has set on the Sepang International Circuit, and the Red Bull Racing team made a fitting send-off to the Malaysian Grand Prix with a dominating win by Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

Betting odds were not that high on the Red Bull winning the final F1 race in Malaysia, especially after Lewis Hamilton put his name on top of betting websites with his 70th pole position. However, the team maintained their fantastic form from the practice and qualifying races to secure an outstanding 1-3 finish and surprise the online gambling community.

Meanwhile, Hamilton ended up second despite a favourable start that put his title rival Sebastian Vettel in the back row after failing to finish in the qualifying. Not to mention that Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who was supposed to start second on the grid behind Hamilton, was forced to retire before the fight even started due to an engine problem.

Hamilton only had the lead up until Lap 4 as Verstappen moved to the front and controlled proceedings with his fast race pace right there and then.

Mercedes’ struggles, which they showed during practice, were evident once again as Hamilton failed to mount a challenge and was instead left behind, with the 20-year-old Belgian cruising to victory by almost 10 seconds.

“I think in the beginning, the car felt good and I saw Lewis was struggling a bit more with traction, so I used my battery a bit more. He has more to lose than me in terms of the championship. From then on, I could race my own race. It’s a very tough race and it was incredible to win,” Verstappen said.

Another noteworthy battle was that of Ricciardo and Vettel, who used Ferrari’s strong power to come back from the dead and aim for a podium finish. The German ace managed to reach fourth and looked to overtake the Australian in the closing stages, but the pace of the other Red Bull driver was also too great, making him difficult to overcome.

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas rounded up the Top 5 finishers, though he’s certainly disappointed he didn’t improve his standing despite Raikkonen’s early retirement.

The win marked Verstappen’s first title of the season, which already saw him retire in seven races. It’s also the Red Bull’s fifth title in eight years in Malaysia, having won it last year as well.

For Hamilton, meanwhile, it wasn’t the knockout blow he was hoping for, but he extended his Championship lead over Vettel to 34 points. The German though still has a chance if he can win or outpoint the Brit in Japan next week.

In the constructors’ standings, Red Bull improved their record with 270 points, but they are still far off from the top dogs Mercedes and Ferrari who have 503 and 385 points, respectively.

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Are You Ready for More F1 Fun?

Belgian Grand Prix

The Formula 1 season is back, which means sports betting fans will be more than happy to welcome the return of the blistering pace and awe-inspiring driving from the world’s best drivers.

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is the perfect backdrop to resume the fast and furious races the current Formula 1 season is built on. There are favourites to win the race, but the month-long break may have helped a team or two improve their machines. Live betting pundits will have a grand time skimming through betting odds to find the perfect punt.

The obvious favourites to win the race are the Ferraris. Lewis Hamilton – the biggest favourite to win the race at 1.60 outright odds – and the rest of the Mercedes team may be keeping up with the Italian Stallion, but they have been holding the leash the entire season. Sebastian Vettel (4.00) is the likely racer to start on pole.

Kimi Raikkonen (11.00) may not have won any race this season, but he is intimately familiar with Belgium: he won four times in this track in his career. Fans and rivals better take note of what he can do on the track.

Mercedes surely won’t let up on Ferrari to catch up on the Driver Standings and build a solid lead in the Constructor Championship. Valtteri Bottas (4.50) is also having a fantastic season and will fight alongside his team-mate to pressure Vettel.

Red Bull Racing have been on the tail-end of the conversation lately, but they do have powerful engines and very talented drivers to push the cars to the limit. Both Max Verstappen (23.00) and Daniel Ricciardo (29.00) have a good chance of making the race more interesting to fans.

While the other racers have more chances of discovering a new insect than win in this race, it’d be notable to take a note of some of them. Fernando Alonso (1001.00) may be struggling with McLaren, but he is still a talented driver that could win points if given a slight opportunity. Esteban Ocon (501.00), Felipe Massa (501.00), Sergio Perez (501.00) and Nico Hulkenberg (801.00) will make the battle for the podium interesting as well.

The Belgian Grand Prix will be chock-full of moments and racing fun for everybody, and Sunday can’t come soon enough.

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Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

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Chaos, Surprise and Live Betting Drama in the Azerbaijan GP!

Not even the best sports betting expert could have predicted the result of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and it’s just rightful that we describe it as by far the most exciting and chaotic race of the season.

A top three of Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll just shows how surprising the race turned out, though it doesn’t give a clear picture of the breathtaking scenes that ensued.

It was indeed a day of non-stop online betting drama at the Baku City Circuit, featuring two inter-team collisions for Sauber and Force India, three safety-car periods and a red-flag race stoppage.

Ricciardo benefitted the most from the situation as he took the chequered flag despite starting 10th on the grid and even falling way behind to 17th due to brake issues earlier in the race.

Lewis Hamilton, who stormed in the qualifying to take the pole, led for the most part of the opening period. However, a collision with rival Sebastian Vettel threw everything into turmoil.

With the two behind the safety car on Lap 19, just before the restart, Hamilton had a slow exit from Turn 16. Vettel was taken by surprise and hit the Mercedes car at the rear. The German ace then angrily pulled alongside the British driver and made contact with the right wheels of his championship opponent – an act that eventually caused the F1 leader to be punished with a 10-second stop-and-go penalty.

Hamilton retained the lead at the restart anyway before a red flag followed a lap later to clear all the debris of the earlier accidents.

The race restarted for the third time, but Hamilton’s luck ran out as he was forced to pit on Lap 31 due to his incorrectly fitted headrest. Vettel, meanwhile, was given his penalty on the 33rd lap, though he still emerged ahead of Hamilton who dropped to eight due to the uncalled pit stop.

This series of events allowed Ricciardo to stage his comeback. He already recovered from his earlier problems and made it to third thanks to the safety car, and he finally took the lead and cruised to victory after Hamilton and Vettel’s misfortune.

Hamilton ended up in fifth while Vettel managed to extend his lead to 14 points in the standings as he finished fourth.

On the other hand, Bottas and Stroll provided another drama for the podium finish, with the former overtaking the Williams driver just before the finish line. More amazing was the fact that Bottas matched Ricciardo’s comeback as he dropped to last and was a lap down at one point.

The win is Ricciardo’s fifth Grand Prix victory and first since winning the 2016 Malaysian GP. For Stroll, it was his first podium finish as he also became the second youngest F1 driver to do so.

Next up is the Austrian Grand Prix, and with how things went down, expect a more heated battle between the leaders from here on out!

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