Pace alone doesn’t win you races in Formula 1. The conditions have to be perfect. And after a rocky transition from Red Bull to Renault, before experiencing a rather shakey season with McLaren dissected ad nauseam by every tabloid rag, everything came together for Daniel Ricciardo to win the Italian Grand Prix at Monza – his first victory since Monaco back in 2018, McLaren’s first victory since 2012, McLaren’s first 1-2 finish since 2010, as well as earning fastest lap.
A brilliant qualifying effort from the Honey Badger this past weekend scored the Perth native a perfect starting grid position to make an impact. Securing the lead in front of #1 championship contender, Max Verstappen, Ricciardo’s major concern was fending off his former teammate, maintaining a precarious single-second gap that threatened to disappear on several occasions.
As fate would have it, a botched 11-second pit stop for Verstappen would put some healthy distance between them, before Red Bull’s golden boy was taken out of contention completely due to a collision with defending champion, Mercedes’ Sir Lewis Hamilton. That’ll make for a killer Drive To Survive episode…
As the race progressed, Ricciardo’s current teammate, Lando Norris, muscled his way to P2 – keeping both Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Mercede’s Valtteri Bottas at bay. To make things even more ideal for the McLaren partnership, Perez had been slapped with a five-second penalty after exceeding track limits to advance his position. Locked in a tight battle with a bloody quick Bottas – who made his way from the back of the grid all the way into P4 – they were essentially a non-factor behind young Norris (who received team orders to hold the line).
“It’s about – [gesture.] – time,” says Daniel Ricciardo, using hands to indicate the profanity he was told not to use on live television post-Italian Grand Prix victory.
“I’ve been a sandbagging SOB all year… For once, I’m lost for words.”
“We’ve had a pretty awesome weekend,” says Lando Norris.
“It could’ve ended up like the other two. I’ll get my chance in the future.”
While it’s all smiles and sparkling wine for the boys in orange, the bitter rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen translates to anything else for Mercedes and Red Bull, respectively. Re-enacting a version of the show-stopping incident as Silverstone during the British Grand Prix, a debate surrounding who had the right of way and providing space on the turn will surely plague headlines for the coming week.
UPDATE [13/02/21]: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has been handed a three-place grid penalty for the Russian Grand Prix (Sochi) after the stewards’ investigation found him at fault for causing the race-ending collision with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.