Shanghai : Daniel Ricciardo made a string of thrilling overtaking moves to snatch a surprise Chinese Grand Prix victory yesterday after a safety car strategy gamble by his Red Bull team paid off handsomely.
The Australian, who started sixth after almost missing qualifying, made the most of fresher tyres to finish 8.8 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas in a Mercedes.
“I don’t seem to win boring races,” he grinned from the podium, before chugging the champagne from his racing boot in a trademark ‘shoey’.
“They are all pretty fun but that was unexpected.”
Kimi Raikkonen took third place for Ferrari but title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both endured trying afternoons, the four times world champions ending up fourth and eighth respectively.
“I was in no-man’s land today,” said Hamilton. “I had no pace.”
Vettel, who won the first two races of the season for Ferrari, saw his lead over Hamilton slashed from 17 points to nine.
The German’s race unravelled spectacularly, a collision with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen dropping him down the order, after the pre-race favourite had initially made a good start from pole and held the early lead.
Verstappen had a 10 seconds penalty applied post-race for causing the collision, dropping the Dutch youngster from fourth to fifth.
Vettel was also passed by the McLaren of Fernando Alonso two laps from the end.
Ricciardo’s mechanics had performed a minor miracle to change a blown engine after practice on Saturday, getting him out just in time during the first phase of qualifying.
“Putting ourselves 24 hours ago, I thought we might be starting at the back of the grid,” said the Australian. “Today is the real reward for that work.”
Yesterday’s win was Ricciardo’s first since a chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix last June and it also broke Mercedes’ Shanghai stranglehold, with the champions having won the last six races there.
Mercedes are yet to win this year, the first time since the turbo hybrid era started in 2014 that they have been beaten for three races in a row.
Ricciardo and Verstappen were not early contenders but the deployment of the safety car on the 32nd of 56 laps, after the Toro Rosso pair Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley collided and left debris on track, swung the race Red Bull’s way.