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Lewis Hamilton favourite for Formula 1 Championship: Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo won the first ever Azerbaijan GP this Sunday in somewhat improbable fashion. The Australian F1 driver spoke to HT and had some interesting things to say on a variety of topics.

other sports Updated: Jun 28, 2017 08:31 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Daniel Ricciardo celebrates after winning the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Daniel Ricciardo celebrates after winning the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix. (AFP)

Daniel Ricciardo crashed out in qualifying, started 10th in the race and slipped to 17th in the early stages before producing probably the most sensational drive of his career to triumph in the chaotic Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku on Sunday.

The Red Bull driver’s victory, fifth of the Australian’s career and first of the season, came after safety car periods, a red flag (halting the race), several dangerous crashes and with no championship contenders Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel on the podium.

The Australian driver with Italian roots is seen as someone who can challenge for the championship in the future, having won three races and outscored then Red Bull teammate and reigning four-time world champion Vettel in 2014 to finish third overall.

READ | Azerbaijan GP: Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton clash as Daniel Ricciardo wins

In a chat with HT, the 27-year-old Ricciardo discussed the Baku thriller, his favourite for the 2017 F1 world championship, and compared the four-time world champion Vettel with current teammate, teenager Max Verstappen.

Excerpts:

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was so chaotic. Did you ever think a win was possible?

We dropped back to 17th at one point. Did I think I would win then? I would have put all my money on that not happening. On the cool-down lap I was giggling like a schoolboy. It’s unreal to have managed to get the win. After all the chaos and the red flag, I felt a podium was within reach, but once Lewis had to pit and Seb had the penalty, I knew the win was possible.

How would you assess your season? After disappointments in Australia and Russia, you have delivered consecutive podiums in Spain, Monaco and Canada, and this win.

It has been more promising. When you finish on the podium, it is nice. So, now I have three on the bounce, it feels good. We are still realistic about what we want to achieve. The podiums are great but we still have ground to make. We are enjoying the podiums when we get them but we are also going back to the drawing board afterwards, trying to figure out ways to improve.

Who is the favourite for the 2017 world championship, Vettel, Hamilton, or someone else?

Hamilton. It’s either going to be Vettel or Hamilton and better than saying someone else. Seb’s obviously talented enough and he has proven he can win a world title, but I kind of lean towards the development of Mercedes probably as the year goes on and probably they have a little bit more longevity in their car.

READ | Sebastian Vettel ‘disgraced himself’ at Azerbaijan GP, says furious Lewis Hamilton

You had a four-time world champion (Vettel) as teammate in 2014 and you finished well ahead in the championship. Now you have a very young teammate who has made an immediate impact on switching from Toro Rosso. How would you compare Max Verstappen with Vettel?

Both are extremely talented and strong. Both are determined and very hard racers, kind of fight for every piece of track, which is great. Not everyone is willing to do that but they are. With Seb his experience was kind of the thing I learnt from, the way he interacted with the team and things like this. For Max’s youth (the Dutch driver is 19), it’s just kind of a bit like his speed and get-in-the-car kind of driving and not giving a s**t in a way. Both are massively talented. But Max is so much younger and definitely has room to grow, but he’s very good.

It is turning out to be an out-and-out Ferrari vs Mercedes battle this year. Where does Red Bull fit in (won the constructors’ title from 2010-13 with Vettel’s four-in-a-row)?

Third! Hopefully we can join the battle but for now we are clear third.