Daniel Ricciardo has pulled off a brilliant drive to win the Chinese Grand Prix after starting the race from sixth on the grid.
The Australian benefitted from quick thinking from the Red Bull team, which pitted both its drivers at opportune moments during the 56-lap race in order to wrestle control of the race from Ferrari and Mercedes.
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 15, 2018
“Holy s***!” was all Ricciardo could initially offer over the team radio after he was shown the chequered flag, with his team boss Christian Horner praising an “absolutely clinical” drive.
“Cut throat. Scary,” Horner said.
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas finished second and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen third but the driver of the day was without a doubt Ricciardo, whose daring passing moves had the commentators gasping in disbelief.
It was Ricciardo’s sixth win in Formula 1, with every one of those wins coming from outside a top three grid position, cementing his status as one of the most exciting drivers in the sport.
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 15, 2018
His pass on Lewis Hamilton on the turn 14 hairpin from well back was particularly audacious, seemingly catching the four-time world champion by surprise.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to lick the stamp and send it,” Ricciardo said of the move.
“I don’t know what it is, I don’t seem to win boring races. They’re all pretty fun. I didn’t expect that,” he said after the race.
“Put ourselves back 24 hours and I thought I might be starting from the back of the grid,” Ricciardo said of Red Bull’s engine troubles, which have plagued the team early in the season.
“Today is the real reward for that work.”
Mechanics had two hours to change the engine on Ricciardo’s Red Bull on Saturday, pulling off the feat just in time to give Ricciardo two minutes on the track to set his qualifying time.
Red Bull strategists get it right
Both Red Bulls were called into the pits early in the race in order to get a jump on their rivals, with Mercedes quickly following suit. Ferrari, who were leading the race at the time through Sebastian Vettel, were slower to react and lost the lead to Bottas.
Then, again the Red Bull strategists were the fastest to move when a safety car was called onto the track on lap 31 due to a collision between Toro Rosso drivers Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, pulling its two drivers in and putting the cars on soft tyres to gain a speed advantage for the remaining laps.
Mercedes and Ferrari left their cars on 10-lap-old medium-compound tyres but it was Red Bull’s gamble which paid off.
“It was crazy. A lot of fun,” Ricciardo said of his superior pace over his rivals.
While Ricciardo was clinical in mowing down the five cars in front of him to take the lead on the 45th lap, his younger teammate Max Verstappen showed less composure, attempting a dangerous move on Hamilton, resulting in him running off the road and allowing the Australian past.
He then attempted a pass on Vettel which saw both drivers run off the track and the Dutchman ultimately receive a 10 second penalty.
Championship leader Vettel finished back in eighth, while Hamilton crossed the line fifth, one spot above the penalised Verstappen.
Ricciardo celebrated his win with his now-trademark “shoey”.
Former world champion Nico Rosberg said the race was further proof Ricciardo is the best over-taker in F1.
“Max and Daniel are the best, but Max just messes up too much,” he said.
“Daniel just makes it stick and that makes him the best in Formula 1. He’s really a huge talent at overtaking.
“When I was racing he was the guy I hated having behind me the most.”
Ricciardo’s win was his first since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in June, 2017.
F1 driver standings
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||RED BULL RACING||37|
|6||Fernando Alonso||ESP||MCLAREN RENAULT||22|
|8||Max Verstappen||NED||RED BULL RACING||18|
|9||Pierre Gasly||FRA||TORO ROSSO||12|