Shanghai: Daniel Ricciardo proved he is one of the best overtakes in Formula One when he won a thrilling Chinese Grand Prix at the weekend.
The smiling Australian carved his way from sixth to first in the space of eight laps after taking in fresh tyres to pull off a swashbuckling win.
Here are five things we learnt from the race:
Free agent Ricciardo in driving seat
Ricciardo’s contract at Red Bull comes to an end this year and as a free agent he will be in high demand after his sixth Grand Prix win was sealed with daring, precision passes in the closing stages in Shanghai.
“I don’t seem to win boring races. They’re all pretty fun,” said the man who is due to have talks with Red Bull over a new contract later this month.
But with Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas yet to sign new deals for next year and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen also becoming a free agent, the affable Australian may have the luxury of a choice of top drives for next year — and being able to name his price.
As Ricciardo said after his daring moves in China: “A lot of the time you get one chance. Sometimes you’ve just got to lick the stamp and send it.”
Verstappen needs to grow up
Ricciardo’s high-speed skill under pressure was in stark contrast to his gung-ho younger teammate Max Verstappen, who had a third error-strewn race weekend in a row.
The 20-year-old ran off the track trying to get past Hamilton with a potential win beckoning, then collided with championship leader Sebastian Vettel.
The mistakes came after a qualifying crash and a race-day collision in Bahrain with Hamilton, and a spin in Australia.
“It is a result I am sure he will be frustrated with,” said team boss Christian Horner but Vettel, who limped home in eighth place after the clash, was more forthright in his assessment of the hot-headed young Dutchman.
“In that situation he has to change his style otherwise it will happen again,” Vettel warned. “I said to him afterwards: ‘Look, the race is long and you threw your podium away’.”
Red Bull make it a three-way title fight
As if defending champions Mercedes and Hamilton didn’t have enough to worry about after Ferrari’s Vettel dominated the first two races of the season in Australia and Bahrain, Red Bull showed in Shanghai they have the pace to make it a three-way title tussle this year.
“It was clear that the Red Bulls were faster,” said Vettel. “The way Daniel (Ricciardo) approached from behind there was no point to resist,” added the German four-time world champion.
“Just give me a chance to be in a title hunt and I really believe I’ll take it,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports after the race. “I feel I can capitalise on opportunities and today was a good example.”
Hamilton can’t solely blame car
Defending drivers’ champion Hamilton called the Chinese Grand Prix “a disaster” and has some soul-searching to do after another poor weekend.
The world champion was out-qualified by Mercedes teammate Bottas and outperformed by the Finn in the race for the second Sunday in succession.
Could his lacklustre displays be down to being distracted by his ongoing contract negotiations?
“Maybe he was not in the best place this weekend,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
The four-time world champion Hamilton claimed to be mystified why he never threatened the podium in finishing fourth.
“I was in no-man’s-land today,” Hamilton said. “We’ve been underperforming and yesterday and today have been a disaster on my side,” he said.
“I need to try and rectify that and get myself back into normal performance or otherwise more valuable points will be lost.”
Raikkonen’s patience wears thin
Ferrari may say publicly they have no team orders, but Raikkonen surely knows his place in the Italian team’s pecking order after Sunday’s race, despite finishing on the podium.
Ferrari threw away any chance the former Formula One world champion may have had of winning the race by leaving him out on old tyres to block Valtteri Bottas and allow Vettel to catch up.
When he did eventually take on fresh rubber, Raikkonen emerged in sixth place and only managed to grab third due to a safety car period and Verstappen colliding with Vettel.
“It was quite a painful race and not a very enjoyable one,” said Raikkonen, who had started on the front row of the grid alongside Vettel.
“Today we take the third place, but obviously when you start from the first row it’s far from ideal.”