Ricciardo’s gritty victory is what Monaco’s all about

Michael Lamonato Columnist

By Michael Lamonato, Michael Lamonato is a Roar Expert

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    Second placed finisher Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari and third placed finisher Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrate on the podium during the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya on May 14, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

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    Daniel Ricciardo doesn’t win boring races, and despite what some may say, his gutsy win with a dodgy engine around the famous streets of Monte Carlo was no exception.

    The Monaco Grand Prix is no ordinary race. It isn’t fast like Monza or sweeping like Spa, nor is it wide like Baku or purpose-built like the upcoming grand prix in Le Castellet; it is something different entirely.

    The principality might host one of the slowest races on the calendar, but in blending the weight of history with the mental stress of threading the needle 78 times around the serpentine circuit it presents a challenge unique to Formula One.

    It’s the sort of race that can make a driver laugh or cry, and in Daniel Ricciardo experienced both ends of the emotional spectrum on the way to claiming his first and long overdue Monaco Grand Prix victory.

    The Australian dominated Thursday and Saturday in Monte Carlo, topping all three practice sessions and every segment of qualifying, including the top-10 shootout for pole position. He was a man on a mission, motivated by victory lost through no fault of his own in 2016.

    The momentum he had built up to Sunday morning was incontrovertible, and when he got away from the lights cleanly and executed a straightforward pit stop on lap 17, the road seemed clear for Ricciardo to finish what he started in 2016.

    Race winner Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing

    Daniel Ricciardo (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

    But just as clouds had rolled into the Monaco harbour on what had been forecast to be a sunny day, so too did Ricciardo’s fortunes darken on lap 18.

    “Losing power,” he radioed back to his engineer, an all too familiar message for the Renault-engined Red Bull Racing team, and the times showed it: earlier capable of lapping at around 75 seconds, his pace slowed to a grinding 79 and 80 seconds per lap, allowing the second-placed Vettel to cut down his three-second deficit to less than a second.

    “I wanted to close my eyes and start crying,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports. “I thought that was it, that my race was over.”

    Indeed Red Bull Racing principal Christian Horner later revealed he had been advised that his leading car would need to be retired in a matter of laps. The power unit’s MGU-K – the kinetic energy recovery system worth around 120 kilowatts of electrical power – had suffered an unrecoverable failure, and cumulative effects of the problem left Ricciardo down on power by around 25 per cent, enough to render seventh and eighth gears effectively useless.

    Worse, losing the MGU-K means the power unit is no longer recovering waste energy from the brakes, leaving them liable to overheating – think Ricciardo’s first win at the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton retired and Nico Rosberg limped to the finish with overheating brakes when Mercedes suffered the same problem.

    But you don’t just retire from the lead of the Monaco Grand Prix.

    ‘Winning at the slowest possible speed’ is an old Formula One adage that often gets a workout around this time of year, and Ricciardo put it to good use in Monte Carlo, positioning his car centimetre-perfectly at key parts of the circuit to minimise the hunting Vettel’s ability to take advantage of his lack of straight-line speed, which was down on the Ferrari by more than 20 kilometres per hour.

    It would have been easy for Ricciardo to make a mistake – a lock-up borne of overheating brakes, a missed apex as he busiest himself managing his ailing power unit or a crash as he tried to eke the life from his tyres – but for a taxing 60 laps he maximised what was left of his car to take the chequered flag.

    “The pace was slow for the power, the pace was slow to manage the tyres and then the pace was slow because I was managing brakes,” he said. “Hence why it felt like a very long race but obviously we got it home.”

    This was a career-defining drive for Ricciardo – indeed Horner likened it to Michael Schumacher’s famous second place at the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix, where the German was stuck in fifth gear for most of the race – and one that has boosted his stocks to record highs as one of the grid’s most complete drivers.

    Daniel Ricciardo celebrates on the 2017 Austrian Grand Prix podium. (GEPA pictures / Christian Walgram)

    Dan Ricciardo on the podium. (Photo: GEPA pictures / Christian Walgram)

    “I think it was definitely my best weekend and the most satisfying,” he said. “Right now there’s still a lot to process but … once it all settles I think, yeah, I could probably say that.

    “As a whole this is probably the best weekend of my career.”

    It wasn’t a pretty race, and though it wasn’t devoid of overtaking, it wasn’t an action-packed afternoon either, but the victory was decided by what the Monaco Grand Prix is all about: driving challenge overcome by individual excellence.

    That kind of race can never boring.

    Michael Lamonato
    Michael Lamonato

    Michael is one-third of F1 podcast Box of Neutrals, as heard weekly on ABC Grandstand Digital nationwide. Though he's been part of the F1's travelling press room since 2012, people seem more interested in the time he was sick in a kart - but don't ask about that, follow him on Twitter instead @MichaelLamonato.

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • May 29th 2018 @ 7:32am
      freddieeffer said | May 29th 2018 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      Thanks Michael,
      What’s your take on this win in terms of what impact, if any, does this have on those teams desiring his potential services for 2019? Or is it still too early in the season to be clearer/definitive on Ricciardo for 2019.

      • Columnist

        May 30th 2018 @ 8:00am
        Michael Lamonato said | May 30th 2018 @ 8:00am | ! Report

        I don’t know if it has much of an impact on terms of desire, to be honest — I don’t think Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull Racing had any doubt of his quality as a driver, impressive though this drive was. What it might well do is improve his bargaining power for pay or other contract perks, though.

    • Roar Guru

      May 29th 2018 @ 7:43am
      Jawad Yaqub said | May 29th 2018 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      Yeah, it’s a bit too extreme of ambassadors such as Hamilton and Alonso blasting the race as being boring, just because their particular contests weren’t all to exciting.

      Notwithstanding the Aussie factor, it was a ‘edge of the seat’ type affair because you never knew if the Red Bull’s problem would amplify and ultimately terminate Ricciardo from the race. At the same time, it was made intense through the radio conversations, highlighting the scale of the issue and the mountain that was needed to be climbed in order to win the race.

      This was definitely one those of classic drives, which later on everyone’ll surely appreciate and herald in the same stead as Schumacher in 1994, or even Senna’s first home win when he had his gearbox stuck too.

      • Columnist

        May 30th 2018 @ 8:03am
        Michael Lamonato said | May 30th 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

        Yeah, I thought it was a bit poor of Hamilton and Alonso. If Hamilton had won, he’d be talking about how its the greatest circuit in the world rather than asking the sport to consider circuit changes.

        As for Alonso, it feels increasingly like he doesn’t really want to be here any longer. Asking for fans to be repaid for their tickets — I mean, no-one goes to Monaco expecting an overtaking bonanza, and I didn’t think this year’s race was notably better or worse in that regard than previous editions.

    • May 29th 2018 @ 9:09pm
      mark bp said | May 29th 2018 @ 9:09pm | ! Report

      nice article.
      awesome driving from danny r in monaco.

      how about a article on will power later in the week. he just won the indy 500.

      its really sad will power is not a household name in australia. looking at his indy results from the last 10 years…. is he the best motor racer weve ever produced???

      • Columnist

        May 30th 2018 @ 7:58am
        Michael Lamonato said | May 30th 2018 @ 7:58am | ! Report

        You’re right, he certainly deserves to be regarded as one of our more successful exports. We don’t get too many drivers into top-tier international racing, and the fact he made, it, stayed there and won a title makes him deserving of a higher status.

        The best motor racer ever? A very difficult question, but I think that’d be a bit of a bold call. I’m always inclined to say Jack Brabham is our best considering the quality of his era and the fact he built his own machinery.

        • May 30th 2018 @ 11:50pm
          mark bp said | May 30th 2018 @ 11:50pm | ! Report

          hi michael. thankyou for the reply…..
          so write a article on will power….. he should be a aussie household name……

          or on this theme. who is australias best motor sport racer ever…..???
          jack brabham… mick doohan…. will power…. peter brock…. etc.

          cheers mark

    • May 30th 2018 @ 7:11pm
      Dexter The Hamster said | May 30th 2018 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

      Thanks Michael, I agree. The race may well have been boring for some, but I cant remember ever being so tense for 60 laps of a race. Was on the edge of my seat the entire way. Any other track and Daniel had no chance of holding on, but Monaco gives us these sorts of scenarios year in year out.

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