Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo continued a season of comebacks with another rapid recovery in the Formula 1 British Grand Prix, which he called ‘ten out of ten in terms of fun.’
While Ricciardo has made a few comebacks this season, none of them been remotely predictable, nor have they diminished the joy he derives from swilling champagne out of his sweaty shoes.
The 28-year-old was on a five-race podium streak before the British GP, where he finished fifth even having received a five-place grid-penalty which started him 19th.
His qualifying effort was severely hampered after a turbo-failure eliminated him from Q1, and thus he was tasked another uphill climb.
“I hope they showed a lot of that on TV,” said Ricciardo post-race as he made 11 of 32 overtakes during the race.
“I just felt like the whole race I was overtaking cars and I hope the fans enjoyed it.
“The whole race was a fight. I was coming through and then I made a really good restart [after the early safety car] – I got two cars by Turn 4 and then I was going for three,” he said.
Ricciardo finished behind team-mate Max Verstappen, who himself was in the running for a podium as both Ferraris suffered tyre-failures in the closing stages of the race but Verstappen had to pit late on as a precaution and lost his chance to stand on the rostrum.
Sebastian Vettel’s late front-tyre damage gave Ricciardo fifth, however, a place that was seemingly out of reach, and the Red Bull driver was elated as a result.
“I was probably a bit optimistic on the outside of [Romain] Grosjean and he didn’t give me much room. I probably shouldn’t have been there,” he said having overtaken the Haas on lap three.
“It wasn’t the smartest place to put the car and I went off track and it probably damaged a bit of the floor. I fell back to pretty much last again but came back through.
“I caught Hulkenberg with a few laps to go and then Seb [Vettel] had his issue which handed me fifth, so danke Sebastian,” quipped Ricciardo.
“I would give this race ten out of ten in terms of fun. I think you could say that in the last six races the ‘honey badger’ has certainly shown up on Sunday and it’s been great fun.”
How has Ricciardo pulled off his recoveries?
There is no doubt that Ricciardo is quickly earning the moniker of ‘comeback king’ this season, having earned a win and four podium places from behind already – but how did he pull them off?
The Spanish GP was actually an underwhelming weekend for Ricciardo, who was in an upgraded RB13 but couldn’t quite muster the pace to challenge the frontrunners in qualifying.
However, his rearward grid position of sixth helped him avoid the clash between Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen at Turn 1 on the opening lap, which knocked the latter driver out; Bottas’ lap 38 engine failure gifted Ricciardo a podium. With only 16 overtakes overall that weekend, the Australian’s brief was solely to bring the Red Bull home.
A third place finish in Monaco continued the trend in another fortunate weekend, as Ricciardo was ejected in traffic for Q3 which nearly jeopardised his race on a circuit which is notoriously difficult to overtake on.
He found himself ahead of Bottas and Verstappen having overcut the two successfully with a pit-stop on lap 38, though Ricciardo got away with tap of the wall up the hill following Turn 1 on a late Safety Car restart.
Force India’s civil war and Verstappen’s lap 10 loss of power meant Ricciardo’s long run to the finish line on the slower soft tyre against his rivals on super-softs was excused in the Canadian GP to make it three podiums in a row.
Yet, Ricciardo’s season continued to astonish in Azerbaijan where he won from 10th, having been in the fortunate position to avoid Raikkonen’s Turn 1 clash with Bottas and more pivotally, the Safety Car chaos involving both Force Indias, where he tail-gated the Williams pair and ultimately overtook Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll to take the unlikeliest of victories.
Upgrades for Hungary
This season didn’t look to be an overtaking-laden saga, and it hasn’t been for most, with fewer overtakes than in 2016.
However, Ricciardo has benefited more than his rivals from starting behind them, avoiding the turbulent, punishing wake of faster cars and easily leapfrogging those without Red Bull’s strong chassis and gradually improving Renault power unit. Clashes with the longer, wider cars in front are working in his favour as well, and Ricciardo is clearly riding a wave.
“I’ve been really happy with how I’ve been putting my Sundays together for the last handful of races,” Ricciardo continued after the British GP.
“It’s been strong and to get fifth from the back today I really couldn’t ask for more. Last week I was the hunted and this week the hunter, I love the fight of this sport and today I felt I could really enjoy that.”
With a significant upgrade touted for the Red Bulls in Hungary, the team hopes to split the Ferraris and Mercedes in front.
“If we can keep building on Austria’s performance then we should hopefully be able to get cars between Ferrari and Mercedes or vice versa,” said Team Principal Christian Horner to Autosport.
“Our drivers are going to have little to lose, so we are just going to be going for the best results we can.
“We are not essentially in the drivers’ championship. Daniel is some way off but we are still looking to achieve some big results.”
The team’s reliability woes, while alleviated for the British GP, need to be addressed more than anything else and they are Red Bull’s biggest issue mid-season; if not, Ricciardo’s shoe-drinking antics could be left behind.
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Update: Ricciardo made 11 rather than 24 overtakes during the British GP.