It’s sweet redemption at Monaco for Daniel Ricciardo, the Aussie taking a win that was two years in the making by leading from start to finish while battling a crippled car on Sunday.
THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM
“I run these $treets” read the message beneath the trademark honey badger that features at the back of Daniel Ricciardo’s driver helmet before the Monaco weekend, and the Australian backed up his (or the badger’s) words with the second pole position of his career for Red Bull Racing on Saturday, which came after he’d led all three practice sessions and all three knockout stages of qualifying. Ricciardo’s pole lap of 1min 10.810secs was the fastest-ever tour of the 3.337km roads around the Principality, and he was remarkably calm afterwards, commenting “it was one of those pretty smooth ones, I could just build up to it and find my rhythm and have some fun.”
While there was joy on one side of the Red Bull garage in its 250th race weekend, there was plenty of pain on the other, Max Verstappen failing to make qualifying at all after shunting heavily at Turn 16, the exit of the Swimming Pool section, in final practice.
The accident, reminiscent of one at the same corner two years ago, destroyed the right-front corner of Verstappen’s RB14 and necessitated a gearbox change, the Dutchman condemned to a back-of-the-grid start at a circuit where overtaking is close to impossible. Given that he was second to Ricciardo in all three practice sessions, it was a massive blow. “You don’t get that many opportunities to win a Monaco GP,” said team principal Christian Horner. “He needs to learn from it, and stop making these errors.” Verstappen’s crash marked the sixth weekend from six this season where he’s had an incident or contact with other cars/the barriers.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel pulled out a superb final lap to get within 0.229secs of Ricciardo for second, while championship leader Lewis Hamilton was next, admitting his Mercedes wasn’t in Red Bull’s league on such a specific track. Verstappen’s absence from Q3 opened the door for another team to gatecrash the first three rows, and it was Esteban Ocon who emerged from the pack to nab sixth spot for Force India, the Frenchman leading a quintet of cars separated by just 0.160secs. “We have a great opportunity,” Ocon beamed afterwards.
Further back, Fernando Alonso was an all-action seventh for McLaren, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly (10th) made Q3 at his first Monaco Grand Prix, and Sergey Sirotkin impressed for Williams by making Q2 and qualifying 13th, a rare bright spot for the team that sits dead-last in the constructors’ standings.
Other than Verstappen’s, the faces were longest at Haas, Romain Grosjean qualifying 15th but starting 18th after his three-place penalty for causing the first-lap shunt in Spain kicked in, and the man who was best of the rest in Barcelona, Kevin Magnussen, slowest of all.
But all eyes were on Ricciardo, after he reprised his 2016 pole on the same streets. “50 per cent done, let’s finish this s**t tomorrow,” he said, perhaps mindful of the ’16 race that saw a win thrown away through no fault of his own after a calamitous pit stop. Working against him on a circuit where passing is so hard? Recent history; oddly, the pole-sitter hadn’t won at Monaco since 2014.
The race in exactly 69 words*
Ricciardo led from start to finish to win his seventh GP, but had to manage the loss of his MGU-K from lap 28, keeping Vettel behind despite being 25 per cent down on power for 65 per cent of the race. Hamilton was third, the top six on the grid finishing where they started. Verstappen climbed from the back to ninth, and set the fastest lap of the race.
(* 2018 is the 69th season of Formula One)
Fifty laps of keeping his cool after reporting he was “losing power” finally cracked for Ricciardo when he rolled to a halt on the start-finish straight, allowing himself an emotional moment alone in the car before the podium ceremony to let his first Monaco win sink in. The pain of losing the 2016 race in the Principality has never really gone away for the 28-year-old, and his immediate comments – “redemption”, “two years in the making” – showed you where his mind was as he climbed the steps to the royal box to receive the winner’s trophy every driver covets like no other. Yes, Monaco is a tough track on which to pass, but Ricciardo’s demeanour when told he’d have to manage his power problems for the rest of the race – calm, analytical, concentrated – was that of a man desperate not to let this win go, and in stark contrast to several of his rivals who moaned about tyres, traffic and strategy when situations called for calmer heads. Vettel was never close enough to launch an attack at his old Red Bull teammate, and Ricciardo’s tyre management was sublime, Vettel’s Ferrari and Mercedes of Hamilton clearly struggling more with graining from their ultrasofts after their one and only pit stops of the race on lap 15 and 11 respectively. A late-race virtual safety car after Charles Leclerc’s Sauber wiped out the Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley caused heart rates to skyrocket on the Red Bull pit wall, but McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne emerged from the pits under VSC conditions to slot in between Ricciardo and Vettel on track, and the Ferrari’s struggles with regaining tyre temperature when the race resumed saw Ricciardo bolt to what was, in the end, a comfortable win by 7.336secs. He led every session of the event, took pole and led every lap of the race – it was only Verstappen’s late fastest lap that denied Ricciardo the most perfect of weekends.
What the result means
Six races into the season, we now have two wins each for Mercedes (Hamilton), Ferrari (Vettel) and Red Bull (Ricciardo), the three drivers on the podium in Monaco now the top three in the championship, Vettel’s second place reducing Hamilton’s lead to 14 points. Not every track is like Monaco and, on balance, the Red Bull still looks the third-fastest car in the field at most circuits. But Ricciardo has repeatedly shown that, give half a chance, he’ll snaffle whatever result is on offer, and twice already this year that has been a victory. He’s 38 points off Hamilton’s series lead, but with Bottas and Raikkonen unable to match their teammates’ pace and Verstappen’s indiscretions seeing him with less than half of Ricciardo’s points total already (72-35), perhaps we are looking at a three-way, three-team fight for the title one-third of the way through the season.
For historical purposes …
Ricciardo became the third Australian to win the most famous F1 race of all, joining Sir Jack Brabham (1959) and the man he succeeded at Red Bull Racing, Mark Webber (2010 and 2012).
The number to know
1: Ricciardo’s win from pole is the only one of his seven career wins to come from higher than fourth place on the grid.
Ocon had managed just one point in five races before Sunday, so snaffling eight more at a circuit that didn’t seem to suit Force India coming into the weekend was an outstanding return. Seventh for Gasly in his maiden Monaco outing was a much-needed result given the Frenchman hadn’t scored at all since his stunning fourth in Bahrain in the season’s second race, while Renault left Monaco with a stronger hold on fourth in the constructors’ championship thanks to eighth for Nico Hulkenberg and 10th for teammate Carlos Sainz.
The naughty corner
Verstappen considered his ninth “the best result possible” given he started at the very back, and he was decisive in the early going, dispatching both Haas drivers into the first corner on lap one and clearly looking the fastest driver of the four-car train headed by Ocon that finished line-astern after 78 laps. One slip-up in practice proved very, very costly – could he have attacked an ailing Ricciardo for the win if he was the driver in second place, not Vettel, in the closing laps? We’ll never know. Elsewhere, we’ll forgive Leclerc for smashing into Hartley, the Sauber’s left front brakes completely failing as he hurtled out of the tunnel towards the harbourfront chicane on lap 72, while the only other retiree was Alonso, whose McLaren had a gearbox failure on lap 53, the Spaniard failing to finish for the first time all year.
F1 trades one street circuit for another with the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal (June 10) up next, although the semi-permanent road course around the Ile-Notre Dame is more Melbourne than Monaco, and should suit Ferrari and Mercedes much more than Monte Carlo did. The narrow old school high-speed track punctuated by chicanes is a car-breaker and especially tough on brakes, and it’s a circuit where Hamilton thrives – the four-time world champion has won the race six times in all and for the past three years, Ricciardo’s maiden F1 win in 2014 the last time anyone other than the Briton has seen the chequered flag first.