There was a fitting pause of a silence for a second or two as Ricciardo, post his historic triumph at the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix leapt partially into thin air, arms wide extended, celebrated the win by diving into his team’s hotel’s rooftop pool serenaded by a wealthy bunch of photographers.
The smile had been bright all weekend and the sense of contentment was all there to see. No rush of emotions; just plain happiness.
But, Daniel Ricciardo may not exactly hold the same view as some of his senior colleagues such as Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and, Kimi Raikkonen about the starry Monaco Grand Prix.
Described by current driver’s champion, Hamilton as ‘easily the most boring race I’ve ever participated in’ and by the experienced duo of Alonso and Kimi, who called the dramatic race- dull and boring- Ricciardo went on to clinch the seventh career win of his emphatic F1 journey and one that very nearly wasn’t.
They say it’s nearly impossible to overtake at the Monaco Grand Prix, easily the narrowest track on the F1 roster but come Lap 30 of the 78 and Ricciardo’s concern was something else. Informing his team over the radio about a significant loss of power in the engine- the MGUK- as fans were visibly shocked to see the Red Bull slowing down, being trailed by Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari, instead of buckling down under pressure, Daniel continued to soldier on.
How he drove a rather recalcitrant and waning Red Bull-easily the car to beat all weekend, particularly after topping every single practice session- to the checkered flag, keeping former teammate Vettel, now in a Ferrari desperate to foil his chances at winning is the stuff of absolute legends. But then, don’t we all regard Ricciardo to be one actually? Ever since the start, of particular importance out here in a track where they label as impossible to overtake, the Red Bull driver cut away from second-placed Vettel with clear precision and focus.
And later on, as the starting grid- Ricciardo, Vettel, Hamilton- emerged unscathed in the opening few laps, getting off to a clean start, Ricciardo’s real job began. That of mounting a comfortable lead over a chasing Vettel. By the time Lap 30 was to begin, Daniel had built a comfortable 2-second gap over the German driver, who’d, in turn, kept Hamilton at bay, the Briton never looking confident of the race pace to challenge the Ferrari for a position just behind Ricciardo.
But the principle lesson that the Monaco Grand Prix unfurled was that not only is Daniel Ricciardo a master of late braking, but also a champion of race-pacing. He’s not only quick especially in the starting of the race as also in being able to pull of logic-defying feats during the dying stages of a competition but equally calm in defending his track position successfully.
And therefore, to suggest that Ricciardo isn’t only a great ‘race-burglar’ as suggested by Martin Brundle at Shanghai but also a great dominator of a Grand Prix- won’t be an understatement.
To boil down the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix further, you’d have to credit the ever-smiling Australian for his brilliant skill he exhibited from the onset of Lap 30 and well past the checkered flag, upon completion of Lap 78.
For an onerous period of 48 laps, Ricciardo kept a charging Vettel disparate and quiet behind his struggling Red Bull. While there were no express laps registered for the second-half, i.e., a larger chunk of the race, Ricciardo, clearly struggling for power especially after having enjoyed an error-free and dominant weekend completely changed the complexion of the race ensured that it wouldn’t be his race to lose.
What we also learned was that while the winner of the baton of the ‘Driver of the race’ belonged to Ricciardo for his excellent defending ahead of Vettel and Hamilton, which is, thwarting off a threat of precisely 8 world championships, it was his teammate, Verstappen who would’ve clearly won the title of ‘second-best driver of the race’, had there been one.
A domineering talent that has, in the wake, of recent inexplicable moves and crashes become a subject of memes and social media trolls, Verstappen, for all the bad blood he received in the wake of his crash during Saturday’s morning practice session emerged clear off the poor start that warranted him a place from the end of the back grid.
In making some rather interesting and quintessentially feisty moves over Peres, Sirtokin and, the McLaren’s, the Red Bull driver clinched a respectable P9, especially having begun as the back-marker on P20. This underlines Verstappen’s skill when he focuses more on evading crashes and more on his on-track performance.
We also understand that the fight to the 2018 title seems a clear three-way fight, the sentiment echoed in the aftermath of the race, by Hamilton who admitted that anything could happen in F1. But while Vettel, who clinched 15 points and now stands 14 points shy of championship-leader Hamilton may not actually dread his P2, ones yet to see a Ferrari win, the last of which came this season at Bahrain.
What can Ferrari and Mercedes bring to the table at Canada? Can we see another special from Daniel Ricciardo, who’s confessed that he’s not particularly thinking about the world championship despite a stellar drive at the Principality of Monte Carlo?