Monaco Grand Prix: Daniel Ricciardo win teases a Red Bull Racing resurgence
Everybody loves Daniel Ricciardo. The 28-year-old Australian has the widest grin in motorsport, frequently goofs around with other drivers, and has birthed a tradition of drinking champagne from his shoe.
It was thus delightful to watch Ricciardo take his Red Bull to victory in Monaco this weekend, a race where the top-six cars finished in the starting order.
The most glamorous race on the Formula One calendar, Monte Carlo features the stingiest of street circuits, a tight track that spectacularly offers the cars a beautifully curving tunnel before they whizz by yachts, all while millionaires (one in every three Monaco residents, as of 2014) watch them race.
It is a gorgeous, difficult, historic track that throws out the form-book and, given how modern Formula One cars are designed, is an awful track for overtaking.
It traditionally provides drama and catastrophe, though this year it merely teased. Ricciardo developed engine trouble midway through, allowing Sebastian Vettel to catch up, while behind them, Kimi Raikkonen started breathing down Lewis Hamilton’s neck. Nobody passed anybody though.
Exultant Red Bull team boss Christian Horner compared Ricciardo’s achievement to Michael Schumacher’s drive at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1994, which is — it must be said — Red Bullsh*t.
Ricciardo lost two seconds a lap, but so did everyone behind him, the drivers closing up but managing to do little else, ambling to the finish line in a slow concertina.
Here’s how impossible it was to overtake: the swashbuckling Max Verstappen was on new hypersoft tyres and over three seconds a lap faster than Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault in front, and utterly unable to get past.
“I’ll be shocked if anyone was awake at home while it was on,” said Hamilton after a lacklustre race. “I would have been asleep on the couch.”
In Barcelona 25 years ago, Schumacher’s car had gotten stuck in fifth gear, which meant he was forced to devise an entirely new racing style on the fly in order to stay quick, without shifting gears.
He valiantly improvised on a track highly suited to overtaking, and even — miraculously — managed to take a pit stop while still stuck in gear. Damon Hill won that race, but all eyes were on the German in second place.
Monaco, too, is kind to drivers finishing second. Daniel Ricciardo got the trophy from Prince Albert II, but it is the one in second place, who gets felicitated by the Princess of Monaco.
Sebastian Vettel clawed back only three points from World Championship leader Hamilton, but the German has been having a string of overzealous races that went nowhere and needed to cool it.
He looked sharp in the race, looked uncommonly pleased with second place, and appeared to blush when the Princess kissed him on his cheek. If only his races stopped croaking.
(The writer is a film critic who has been writing on Formula One since 2004. He shares his birthday with Michael Schumacher. Views expressed are personal.)