Daniel Ricciardo nurses car home to take brilliant win in Monaco
Red Bull driver had to drive with power problem for final 50 laps in Monte Carlo
Daniel Ricciardo jumps from his Red Bull after winning the Monaco Grand Prix. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo won the Monaco Grand Prix with an exceptional drive in which he nursed a stricken car to the flag in front of the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel in second and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in third.
The Australian was overjoyed with his victory, which was a huge achievement against the odds, and goes someway to making up for his disappointment when he missed an almost certain win here in 2016 after a pit-stop error by his team. The result means Hamilton’s lead over Vettel in the world championship has narrowed from 17 to 14 points.
Ricciardo had said earlier in the week he would have to “earn” a win here. After 78 flawless laps under intense pressure from behind there is absolutely no doubt he had done so, and Red Bull had a real reason to celebrate on the occasion of their 250th grand prix.
The race was, as is often the case, something of a procession on the narrow streets of Monaco, but was far from straightforward for Ricciardo. He had led from the off, and looked to be fairly comfortable out front until he suffered a power problem on lap 28. The team were unable to resolve it, and he had to drive the remaining 50 laps with absolute perfection and on a tight line to ensure that Vettel had no way through despite his power advantage.
Ricciardo did so with a brilliant display of nerveless driving in which he went on to hold the lead and ensure he made his tyres last to the end.
Vettel had pushed, as had Hamilton, but with passing all but impossible, the Australian knew if he could hold track position the win he wanted so badly could still be gained and he held it with absolute authority.
He was left angry and disappointed in 2016, but this weekend was confident he and the team would have another shot at a win. He managed it without putting a foot wrong over an exceptional weekend in which he has dominated the streets of Monto Carlo.
It is Ricciardo’s seventh career victory, his first in Monaco and, after winning in China, his second this season. He was quickest across all three practice sessions, and untouchable in qualifying where he was two-tenths up on Vettel and four-tenths on Hamilton.
For Red Bull this marks what will be seen as a broadly very positive start to the season, despite the disappointment after their drivers took one another out in Baku and Max Verstappen’s crash in practice that forced him to start from the back of the grid, which he managed to convert into ninth place.
Ricciardo’s run from pole was composed and controlled, just as he had been in 2016, before he lost 10 seconds in the pits waiting for tyres. This time the was no error, and the Australian made the most if it. He pulled off a mature and flawless drive to claim victory and reinforced his standing as one of the most bankable drivers on the grid.
He made a perfect start and the three leaders held station and settled in behind him safely line astern. Ricciardo held the clean air and was carefully managing his tyres, the new hypersoft rubber making its debut in Monaco. It meant Vettel and Hamilton were able maintain a stable gap to the Red Bull but not threaten, the three cars steady across a three-second spread.
Up their pace
Hamilton was the first of the leaders to pit, taking the ultrasoft tyres on lap 12 and he emerged in sixth. Ricciardo and Vettel stayed out, however, looking to up their pace to prevent Hamilton taking the lead with the undercut. Both were comfortably able to do so. Vettel took the ultrasofts on lap 16 and came out in front of the British driver, and Ricciardo did so a lap later and emerged having maintained his lead.
But it did not remain so straightforward. On lap 28 Ricciardo reported he was losing power, and Vettel immediately closed to his rear wing. Ricciardo was 20kmh slower in the final sector, probably due to an ERS issue. The team told the Australian they were aware of his problem but could not solve it from the pit wall and he would have to defend his lead as best he could.
Ricciardo’s frustration was clear but he drove the perfect line, and despite the pace advantage Vettel had no way through. The Australian was able to hold a lead of just over one second at not even close to the pace he had set in qualifying. The slower pace bunched the top three up again, all within three seconds of one another. But there was no way through.
Ferrari and Mercedes might have chosen to gamble on stopping again for the quicker rubber but would have lost track position in doing so and opted instead to not risk dropping places that might not be made back. Ricciardo had the place and the win, and had without doubt earned it and his “redemption” as he told the team crossing the finish line.
Kimi Raikonnen was in fourth, with Valtteri Bottas in fifth. The Force India of Esteban Ocon was in sixth and the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly in seventh. The Renaults of Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr were in eighth and 10th. – Guardian service