Red Bull’s gamble pays off for Daniel Ricciardo
Safety car strategy almost gave a one-two for Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo made a string of thrilling overtaking moves to snatch victory at the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix yesterday after a safety car strategy gamble by his Red Bull team paid off handsomely.
The Australian, who started sixth after almost missing qualifying, made the most of fresher tyres to finish 8.8 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas in a Mercedes.
"I don't seem to win boring races," he said.
"They are all pretty fun, but that was unexpected. This sport's crazy. A week ago, I had my head down after two laps. Frustrated at the sport, frustrated at all the variables involved in the sport. But then when you have a day like this and it's worth 50 of those bad ones."
Kimi Raikkonen took third place for Ferrari, but title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both endured trying afternoons, the four-time world champions ending up fourth and eighth respectively.
"I was in no-man's land today," said Hamilton.
"I had no pace, so I was just trying to hold on for whatever I had.
"Obviously it's a tough battle ahead of us. I would say on my side but also us as a team, we've been underperforming.
"Yesterday and today have been a disaster on my side, so I have got to try and rectify that and get myself back into normal performance mode, otherwise more points will be lost."
Vettel, who won the first two races of the season for Ferrari, saw his lead over Hamilton slashed from 17 points to nine.
The German's race unravelled spectacularly, a collision with Red Bull's Max Verstappen dropping him down the order, after the pre-race favourite had initially made a good start from pole and held the early lead.
Verstappen had a 10-second penalty applied post-race for causing the collision, dropping the Dutch youngster from fourth to fifth.
Ricciardo's mechanics had performed a minor miracle to change a blown engine after practice on Saturday, getting him out just in time during the first phase of qualifying.
"Putting ourselves 24 hours ago, I thought we might be starting at the back of the grid," said the Australian.
"Today is the real reward for that work."
Ricciardo and Verstappen were not early contenders, but the deployment of the safety car on the 32nd of 56 laps, after the Toro Rosso pair of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley collided and left debris on track, swung the race Red Bull's way.
Bottas was in the lead at that stage ahead of Vettel, having overhauled the German during the pitstops, while Verstappen was fourth and Ricciardo sixth. Red Bull pulled both their cars into the pits, "double-stacking" them and bolting a set of fresh soft tyres on each.
The advantage of fresh tyres allowed Verstappen and Ricciardo to scythe through the field.
Verstappen botched his chances of victory, and a possible one-two for Red Bull, with scrappy attempts to overtake the main title contenders.
The Dutchman ran wide and dropped back behind Ricciardo when trying to pass Hamilton and later spun his Red Bull and Vettel's Ferrari while attempting to pass the German for third - an error he owned up to afterwards. - AFP, REUTERS
CHINESE GP RESULTS (Top five)
1. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull): 1hr 35min 35.980sec
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes): at 8.894
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari): at 9.637
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes): at 16.985
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull): at 20.436