Daniel Ricciardo capped off a brilliant weekend despite power unit difficulties to win Sunday’s Grand Prix of Monaco with a flag-to-flag victory over Sebastian Vettel in the streets of Monte Carlo. Lewis Hamilton had a quiet race to finish third.
“Wow, it still hasn’t sunk in,” beamed Ricciardo. “It was a perfect weekend but a crazy race. It’s such a long week and because I get so excited for this race, I find it hard to control myself and I just couldn’t wait for the lights to go out today. When it was clear that it was an MGU-K issue I wanted to close my eyes and start crying as I thought the race was over and I wondered just what I have to do to win here. We had a lot less power, fortunately, it’s a tight track and we had a good car so I could make up enough time in the corners not to be vulnerable on the straights.”
Ricciardo took the lead right from the start of the race, and around the tight corners of Monte Carlo, Vettel was unable to pass Ricciardo as the Australian held a gap of 2.1 seconds by lap 25. Even after coming in for his only stop for tires, Ricciardo maintained his lead in the race even when on lap 35, the Red Bull encountered a sudden loss in his power unit system, enabling Vettel to close by only eight tenths of a second.
However, Vettel had problems of his own as his Ferrari had tires that were beginning to grain. Hamilton was encountering the same issue but held on to third for most of the race. By lap 44, all three were close to one another, but there were no areas to pass as all three had some sort of issue with their cars, giving the advantage to Ricciardo.
On lap 66, hometown hero Charles LeClerc lost his brakes coming out of the tunnel complex and ran into the back of Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso, spewing debris all over the road. But despite there were no safety car issues all afternoon, a virtual safety car came out, and following two laps of interruptions, Ricciardo resumed the lead, while Vettel could not regain his grip on the restart and lost considerable time. Along with McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, who had just pitted and found himself stuck between the top two drivers, Ricciardo cruised the last two laps to win a race by 7.3 seconds over Vettel that was stolen from him when his pit crew made a crucial mistake back in 2016.
Now, the Australian found his redemption.
For the rest of the field, the speed was quicker for the midfield drivers than the top three as Kimi Raikkonen just edged his countryman Valtteri Bottas for fourth, while Frenchmen Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly took sixth and seventh positions. Max Verstappen was ninth, and Renault remained in fourth in the world championship by scoring double points with Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. finishing eighth and tenth, respectively.
Hamilton now leads Vettel by 14 points in the drivers’ championship while Mercedes continues their constructor’s lead over Ferrari by 22. But the day was reserved for Ricciardo, who now realizes that he has won one of the most important grand prix classic races.
“On any other circuit, there was no way I would have won today,” he said afterwards. “It wasn’t fun driving like that and I’m pretty exhausted, but very, very happy. We finally got some redemption and this is the sweetest feeling. It wasn’t easy but now I can say I’m a winner here and it’s great to win the team’s 250th race.”