Australian takes first career pole at the most famous Grand Prix of all.
THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM.AU
Talk is cheap, Monaco is expensive; these things we already knew. We now know that Daniel Ricciardo is a man of his word, the Australian taking Red Bull Racing’s first pole position since the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2013 – and the first of his career in his 94th Grand Prix – with a mesmerising lap around the Monte Carlo streets on Saturday afternoon.
“The goal here is pole and win,” Ricciardo stated simply after topping Thursday’s practice sessions, and he ticked off part one of that job list with a spectacular lap of 1min 13.622 secs in the final 12-minute Saturday shootout for pole, finishing 0.169secs ahead of series leader Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), with Rosberg’s teammate and reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton 0.320secs adrift in third.
Ricciardo has had a steely look in his eye ever since the Monaco Grand Prix weekend began, his frustration over finishing fourth last time out in Spain after leading for much of the race plain to see, his new teammate Max Verstappen stealing his thunder by recording his maiden F1 success. His pace through the final sector of the lap, taking in iconic corners like Tabac, the Swimming Pool chicane and Rascasse – has been a standout all weekend, and his inch-perfect line on his pole lap through Tabac was a sight to behold.
Ricciardo was understandably jubilant afterwards.
“It’s definitely a special place,” he said of Monaco.
“I knew coming into the weekend we would have a shot at it. It looked good from Thursday. I had it in my mind also after Barcelona that I have been driving well but haven’t quite got maximum rewards, so I came into this weekend with a lot of confidence and a lot of belief I could be in this position. I have always enjoyed this place. We have a good package behind us and it’s nice to be able to make the most out of it.”
Ricciardo may have used his Saturday to set up his race on Sunday too, with a decision to run the supersoft Pirelli tyre compound in Q2 – with the rules stipulating that drivers must start the race on the same tyres they set their best lap time with to make the top 10 shootout – looking like a masterstroke after he took pole in Q3 soon afterwards. The supersoft has a longer life span than the ultrasoft, meaning Ricciardo has the more durable tyre and track position in his favour at a circuit where passing opportunities are at a premium, and where pit stops and strategic options are limited.
“The plan was to go out on the ultrasoft (tyre) in the first run in Q2 and at least try and do a good enough lap with that, and then we had the time on our side,” he explained.
“We thought ‘let’s try and see what a supersoft can do’, and we just feel maybe it opens up a few more options for the race tomorrow.”
That the forecast for the race features rain isn’t helpful for the driver on pole in Monaco; in normal dry conditions (as in a typical Monaco day), pole is akin to being 90 per cent to a race win on the streets of the Principality – eight of the past 10 races have been won from the man with ‘P1 next to his name on Saturday. But weather forecasts can wait. As Ricciardo loudly and repeatedly said over the radio after his pole lap, Saturday was “my time”. We’ll have to wait 24 hours to see if he’s right – and whether he can join Sir Jack Brabham and Mark Webber as an Australian winner of the one Grand Prix victory every driver covets like no other.