Fri, Jul 1, 9:09am by Staff Writer
Daniel Ricciardo has shut down rumours of a move to Ferrari by committing to Red Bull until the end of next year as the Austrian-owned Formula One team heads to its home Grand Prix this weekend.
The Austrian Grand Prix, one of F1’s traditional events, is held at the Red Bull Ring, a reworking of the Osterreichring track in Spielberg.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg has won both races at the Red Bull Ring since its return to the calendar in 2014 and will be looking to extend his 24-point lead on teammate Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ standings.
And despite Rosberg winning last week’s European Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton is still the narrow betting favourite to win in Austria, with William Hill paying a miserly $2.25 to Rosberg’s $2.50.
Hamilton blamed engine settings for his fifth-place finish in Baku, with Sebastian Vettel finishing second and Sergio Perez of Force India a surprise third on the podium.
Ferrari will be feeling the pressure to make up some more points in the ninth race of the season, with Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen needing to break the Mercedes dominance on the season.
Ricciardo was mooted as a possible replacement for Raikkonen at Ferrari, rejoining former teammate Vettel, but the Aussie opted to remain at Red Bull.
“I can confidently say now that I will still be here in 2017,” he told reporters. And I am with Red Bull for a couple of years beyond this one.
Ricciardo finished a disappointing seventh last week, with Verstappen in eighth, despite the much-vaunted Renault engine upgrade.
He is still in the running for a podium in Austria, paying $6 on William Hill to make the top three. The Aussie is also fourth favourite to take pole position at $11.
Apart from the race itself, F1 fans will be looking for another winner in Austria, with many tipping the track may produce the sport’s fastest lap of all time.
Michael Schumacher currently holds the F1 record with the 1 minute, 07.938 seconds he ran at the Austria track in 2003.
Lewis Hamilton’s best effort in qualifying last year was a 1:08.455, but drivers have improved since last year to the tune of 1.5 seconds per lap making a new record attainable.
Adding to the chances of a best time are the ultra-soft tyres available for the race, coupled with the resurfacing of the Red Bull Ring and the removal of several bumps from the track.
Austria was a consistent fixture on the F1 calendar throughout the 1970s and until 1987 at the Osterreichring. The track was reworked as the A1 Ring in 1997 and staged seven races until 2004. It was then bought by drink maker Red Bull and further redeveloped.
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