Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo had his redemption day as he powered to victory in the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday, despite issues which he had to manage and saw him losing about 20 kph on the straight, to score the win he most wanted, the one which was robbed from him in 2016.
The big smiling Australian was unbeaten throughout practice, qualifying and then in the race led from lights to chequered flag, adding his name to an illustrious list of Formula 1 legends who have triumphed at the world’s most famous street race. His greatest drive to date.
But it was a race packed with drama and uncertainty for him. He took the early lead with Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari chasing. About twenty laps into the race Ricciardo reported a gearbox problem which turned out to be a loss of MGU-K which manifested itself, rendering him with a 20% power deficit for the rest of the afternoon.
To manage this the Red Bull driver explained how he nursed the car home, “I think I can show emotion today than yesterday. This is two years in the making so I finally feel like the redemption has arrived.
“We had problems. We had a lot to deal with during the race. I felt a loss of power and I thought the race was done. I got home just using six gears. Thanks to the team. We got it back. I’m stoked.”
“There were a few doubts that came in mid-race but…we won Monaco. It feels good!” he added with his trademark smile.
His bosses were stunned by the performance, on the occasion of their 250th grand prix, with Red Bull team chief Christian Horner declaring over the radio, “Un-f*cking-believable. You have done an amazing job today. That is right up there with what Schumacher did in 1995 and this is payback for 2016.”
Helmut Marko added, “It was a serious problem and Daniel managed it unbelievably, unbelievable. I don’t think any other driver could have done it. I was very nervous. In the beginning, it looked like it would slow the car further down but we settled it, changed setup and he changed his driving style. Unbelievable.”
Vettel stalked the Red Bull driver for most of the day but simply had no answer to mount a decisive attack, and by the end of the race he simply had no more tyres and had to focus on keeping his car out of the barriers.
The Ferrari driver said afterwards, “I think we had the pace but it was a tricky race. Daniel had the answer at all times. The first stint I could follow him fairly easily and then he started to push as Lewis pitted. He was stronger there and I couldn’t follow. I was going through the tyres fairly quickly.
“He had a problem but at the end, he picked up again and then on the restart I didn’t have confidence in the tyres so I lost quite a lot. It would have been nice to keep the pressure on to the end,” added Vettel.
Lewis Hamilton’s world championship lead was whittled down to 14 points from 17 before the race, the Mercedes driver finished third in what was arguably the track least suited to their race car.
Hamilton acknowledged during the trackside interviews, “A big congratulations to Red Bull and Daniel, they did a great job this weekend and were quickest all weekend. It would have been nice to be second. I did everything I could. It was an interesting – or the least interesting – race.”
The virtual safety car came out for the last few laps after Charles Leclerc lost his brakes and shunted his Sauber into the back of Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso. The incident came too late and made no impact to the overall race picture.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth for Ferrari ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Force India’s Esteban Ocon – the top six finished in the same positions they started on the grid.
Rookie Pierre Gasly gave his shares a timely boost with an impressive performance in the Toro Rosso, keeping out of trouble in the Honda-powered car.
Close behind was Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg who finished with the Red Bull of Max Verstappen – who started from last on the grid after crashing in FP3 and missing qualifying a day earlier – looming big in his Renault mirrors. The trio crossed the line separated by a second in seventh, eighth and ninth respectively.
Carlos Sainz salvaged the final point to make it a double score for Renault on the day.
This year’s Monaco was one of those that was more a chess match than a motor race, but no risk-taking, especially at the end when a brave heart might have bolted on some rubber and gone for it.
This did not transpire, and apart from Ricciardo’s stunning effort was a rather mundane race by Monte-Carlo standards.
At the race start, Ricciardo made a clean getaway and despite a brief attack from Vettel he held his advantage to lead through Ste Devote ahead of the German and Hamilton. At the back of the grid Verstappen made a good start and swiftly cleared the Haas cars of Magnussen and Romain Grosjean to hold P18 at the end of the opening tour.
Verstappen then worked has way past Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson on lap three and began to close on Stroll. He made light work of passing the Canadian on lap seven, down the inside into the Nouvelle Chicance. The next move was past Hartley and that came soon after, putting the Dutchman in P14 before the start of lap nine.
At the front Ricciardo eked out a 2.5s gap top Vettel but then on lap 11 Hamilton pitted for ultrasoft tyres, emerging in P6 behind Ocon. The Mercedes driver passed the Frenchman soon after and then began to chase after the leaders, 28s behind Ricciardo.
Vettel was next in taking on ultrasofts and then, at the end of lap 17, Ricciardo pitted from the lead. He also took ultrasofts but as he rejoined in the lead, about four seconds ahead of Vettel, Bottas pulled up at his pit box and went for supersofts.
Further back Verstappen was still making his through the field and after passing Leclerc, Harley and Sainz and others pitted, he found himself in P11 behind Alonso who had pitted for supersofts.
By the end of lap 25 Ricciardo had a 1.7s lead over Vettel, while Hamilton was now 8.6s off the lead. Raikkonen had closed to 1.2 behind Hamilton, with Bottas 6.0s behind his fellow Finn.
Vettel then began to close on the leader and by lap 30 he was just 0.7s behind Ricciardo. The leader reported a loss of power and as the situation unfolded the Australian asked his team whether the situation would improve. His race engineer’s response was a swift negative.
Ricciardo was now in a position where he would have to defend for more than 40 laps. Behind him Vettel looked to attack but as the Australian protected his lead the German’s tyres began to grain badly.
Behind the leading pair Hamilton began to increase his pace, sensing that the slow laps being put in by the front pair could signal an opportunity. Further back, Bottas began to close on fourth-placed Raikkonen.
The top end of the order now began to bunch up and on lap 45 the leading five cars were separated by just eight seconds.
Further back, Verstappen finally made his sole pit stop at the end of lap 48, taking on hypersofts for a late race push to the flag. He emeged in P11, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and 10 seconds behind Sainz.
Verstappen’s situation improved when Alonso retired with a geabox issue.
That promoted Verstappen to P10 behind the Hulkenberg who had dropped behind Sainz after his stop. When Sainz allowed his team-mate past, Verstappen closed on the Spaniard and after Sainz cut the chicane as they battled the Red Bull driver swept past in the Nouvelle Chicane to take P9.
Ahead, on lap 60, Vettel was still pushing, looking for a way to attack Ricciardo, but the Australian was controlling his defence with aplomb and the gap remained steady at around one second. Hamilton’s charge appeared to have ended as he fell 2.9s behind Vettel, while Raikkonen was a further 2.6 back in fourth place.
Verstappen, though, was till trying to make progress and with 13 laps remaining he had reeled in Hulkenberg, who in turn had caught up with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.
There was late drama when local hero Leclerc crashed into the back of Hartley’s Toro Rosso, but with Leclerc sliding up the escape road and Hartley able to limp to the pits, it was only cause for the Virtual Safety Car to be deployed.
And as the caution came to an end, Vettel dropped right back, settling for second place, seven seconds behind the Australian. Hamilton, too, nursed his car to the finish, finishing almost 10 seconds behind Vettel.
Fourth place went to Raikkonen, with Bottas fifth and Esteban sixth. Gasly drove superbly to hold onto seventh ahead of Hulkenberg and Verstappen and the final point went to Sainz.
MONACO GRAND PRIX OFFICIAL FIA DOCUMENTS & INFORMATION