Mar.18 (F1 Media) Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, taking part in his first home grand prix, took advantage of final lap mayhem to secure two points for Toro Rosso, a result that looked unlikely as he coasted around dead last after a first lap, first corner collision.
“As I limped back to the pits on the first lap, if someone had told me I’d be finishing ninth I’d have said ‘no way’. I was convinced that we had more damage than just a front wing but the team changed that and said I was good to go. The car was still, let’s say, acting a little strange but it was good enough to stay out and keep going.”
The first lap of the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park has a history of first corner collisions, with drivers often blaming the relatively short run from the start line to the braking zone.
This year a jostling midfield saw several cars take hits: Nico Hulkenberg retired with suspension damage and a puncture while Bruno Senna and Ricciardo both needed to pit, the Australian for a new front wing, which left him running adrift from the back of the field.
By the Lap 37 appearance of the Safety Car the Toro Rosso had passed the backmarkers and was able to close up onto the field, but running 12th going into the final lap, Ricciardo’s likelihood of scoring points looked slim.
Then Nico Rosberg punctured while fighting with Sergio Pérez, and Pastor Maldonado spun out while attacking Fernando Alonso. In the melee Ricciardo was able to pass team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne in the closing corners. “I saw most of the drama unfold in front on me,” said Ricciardo. “I went past one of the Mercedes, which was moving pretty slowly with some damage and got a good run out of the fast chicane at Turns 11 & 12. Jean-Eric was in front of me and he covered into 13, so I knew that maybe I could get a switchback. I dropped back to second gear, and we both came out of the corner sideways. I managed to get a better run and hold on to the place. Crossing the line I had no idea what position I was in. I thought maybe 10th but realistically 11th. When my engineer came on the radio and said ‘P9, well done’, I thought that was crazy.”
Ricciardo claimed that the strong running from both Toro Rosso’s makes the team optimistic for the next few races and professes himself eager to get to Sepang. Oddly, it’s a circuit he knows much better than Albert Park, having raced in Formula BMW at the Malaysian track.