F1: Chinese GP win was unexpected, admits Daniel Ricciardo
The Australian, who started sixth, crossed the line a comfortable 8.8 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who missed out for the second time in a row, after appearing to be on course for Mercedes' first win of the season
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo drinks champagne from his shoe after winning the Chinese GP in Shanghai yesterday. Pic/AFP
Daniel Ricciardo snatched a shock victory in a dramatic Chinese Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday after a safety car strategy gamble by his Red Bull team paid off handsomely. The Australian, who started sixth, crossed the line a comfortable 8.8 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who missed out for the second time in a row, after appearing to be on course for Mercedes' first win of the season. Title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both endured trying afternoons, finishing fifth and eighth, respectively. Vettel's race in particular 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.
He was even passed by the McLaren of Fernando Alonso two laps from the end. The 30-year-old however, who won the opening two races of the season in Australia and Bahrain, continues to lead the overall standings with Hamilton second but with a smaller nine-point deficit to his Ferrari rival. "I don't seem to win boring races," said Ricciardo, who was only able to take part in qualifying after his crew performed a minor miracle to change a blown engine following Saturday's final practice, on the podium. "That was unexpected. "Putting ourselves 24 hours ago, I thought we might be starting at the back of the grid.
"Today is the real reward for that work," he added, chugging champagne from his boot in his trademark 'shoey' gesture. Sunday's win was the sixth of Ricciardo's career and first since a similarly chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix last June. It denied Vettel a hat-trick of wins and also broke Mercedes' Shanghai stranglehold, with the German marque having won the last six races there. It also means the reigning champions are yet to win a race this year, the first time in the turbo hybrid era that started in 2014 that they have been beaten for three races in a row. The Australian and team-mate Verstappen were not early contenders. But the deployment of the safety car on the 32nd of 56 laps that 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. Verstappen was fourth with Ricciardo sixth. Red Bull pulled both drivers into the pits, 'double-stacking' them, and bolting on a set of fresh soft tyres on each car.
This gave them the edge over their rivals who were on the older and less grippy medium tyres, allowing Verstappen and Ricciardo to scythe through the field. "Safety car was so unlucky for us," reported Bottas over the radio. The Dutchman, though, botched his chances of victory and a possible one-two for Red Bull with two scrappy overtakes. He ran wide and dropped back behind Ricciardo when trying to pass Hamilton and later punted his Red Bull and Vettel's Ferrari into a spin while attempting to pass the German for third. Verstappen took the blame for the collision, with stewards also handing him a ten-second time penalty that pushed him down to fifth. The 20-year-old had finished ahead of Hamilton in fourth on the the road. Renault's Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth for Renault ahead of Alonso whose aggressive overtaking move on Vettel was 'noted' by stewards. Spaniard Carlos Sainz was ninth with Kevin Magnussen rounding out the top-ten for Haas.