Ricciardo Triumphant In The Jewel In Formula 1's Crown
Graham Read, Formula 1 Correspondent
The Formula 1 championship began back in 1950 and the Monaco Grand Prix formed part of that opening season before becoming a permanent annual event on the calendar every year from 1955 onwards. The latest version of this iconic race was held around the famous Monegasque street circuit last Sunday and after the 78 lap encounter it was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who emerged triumphant.
It is so difficult to overtake at Monaco that qualifying as high on the grid as possible is of paramount importance and so the preceding Free Practice sessions became even more significant as the teams and drivers started to fine tune their cars to the local conditions.
In first practice on Thursday the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Max Verstappen topped the timesheets ahead of Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bull duo continued to maintain their dominance in second practice, with Vettel now edging out Hamilton as the best of the rest.
At midday on Saturday the final practice session began and there was joy followed by woe for the young Dutch charger Verstappen as he went fastest before crashing his Red Bull heavily at the exit of the swimming pool section of the track. To rub salt into his wounds, his Australian team-mate Ricciardo then went back out onto the circuit and posted a time a mere one thousandth of a second faster.
Come the all-important qualifying session, which began two hours after the end of the last practice, Red Bull had had insufficient time to repair Verstappen’s car and so the 20 year old was destined to start the following day’s Grand Prix at the back of the grid - the worst case scenario for Monaco in particular.
Ricciardo continued his rich vein of form though and proved untouchable, topping the timings for a fourth time in a row and claiming pole position for Red Bull. Vettel maximised his chances for the race by staking his claim to the other front row starting position in his bright red Ferrari, with a Mercedes and the other Ferrari, pedalled by Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen respectively, occupying third and fourth places on the grid.
The weather on Grand Prix day was hot and mainly sunny and after morning races for the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and Formula Renault 2.0 singleseaters the focus of the large crowd around the circuit shifted to the forthcoming Formula 1 event. Following the F1 drivers parade around the track Prince Albert and his wife Princess Charlene drove their own traditional lap before the F1 cars took their places on the grid prior to the playing of the national anthem.
When the red lights went out to signal the start of the race Ricciardo led Vettel, Hamilton and Räikkönen plus the remaining 16 cars though the first corner St Devote and up the hill towards Casino Square for the first time.
Hamilton was the first of the frontrunners to pit, stopping at the end of lap 12 to switch from Hypersoft to slightly harder Ultrasoft tyres, and soon all the leading group had done likewise, setting the pattern of the race.
Ferrari’s German quadruple champion Vettel constantly circulated in the wheeltracks of the leading Ricciardo, but was never given an opportunity to attempt a passing manoeuvre. Meanwhile Hamilton was occupying a secure third place and in due course closed on the front pair, making it a three-way fight for the lead.
The British ace later dropped back though and had to be aware of pressure from the pursuing Räikkönen and Valtteri Bottas as he retained the final podium position to reach the chequered flag behind Ricciardo, who had been battling gearbox woes, and Vettel.
The unlucky Fernando Alonso retired from the Grand Prix at two thirds distance after his McLaren expired on him and with six laps remaining there was drama at the Nouvelle Chicane as the Sauber of the highly promising young Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc suffered brake failure and ploughed into the back of New Zealander Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso, putting both out of the race instantly. Following his error in third practice Red Bull’s Verstappen made good progress from last on the grid and finished a creditable ninth.
The ecstatic Ricciardo flashed his trademark smile as he received the winner’s trophy, talking of redemption after a team tyre change error had cost him a victory in the Principality two years earlier. After drinking champagne out of one of his race boots, he persuaded technical chief Adrian Newey to join him. The likeable Australian then even persuaded the Royal Prince and Princess to sip a little champagne out of his bottle too, to the delight of the watching fans. A fitting end to this year’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Ricciardo’s victory promoted him to third place in the Drivers’ Championship rankings behind Hamilton and Vettel, whilst Mercedes continues to head Ferrari and Red Bull in the Constructors’ listings.
All the teams have since returned to their respective HQs, preparing for the next longhaul flyaway race, the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal at the end of next week. A very different circuit to Monaco, but one which often produces an exciting race. Let’s hope so before this thrilling F1 season subsequently continues with three European events (France, Austria and Britain) back-to-back on consecutive weekends.
2018 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix
1 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1hr42m54.807s
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +7.336s
3 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +17.013s
4 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +18.127s
5 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +18.822s
6 Esteban Ocon (Force India) +23.667s
7 Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +24.331s
8 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) +24.839s
9 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +25.317s
10 Carlos Sainz (Renault) +1m9.013s
11 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +1m9.864s
12 Sergio Perez (Force India) +1m10.461s
13 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1m14.823s
14 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) Lapped
15 Romain Grosjean (Haas) Lapped
16 Sergey Sirotkin (Williams) Lapped
17 Lance Stroll (Williams) Lapped
18 Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) Retired
19 Charles Leclerc (Sauber) Retired
20 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) Retired
2018 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship (after 6 of 21 Grand Prix)
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 110
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 96
3 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 72
2018 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship (after 6 of 21 Grand Prix)
1 Mercedes 178
2 Ferrari 156
3 Red Bull 107
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Ricciardo Triumphant In The Jewel In Formula 1's Crown, 30th May 2018, 15:02 PM