By Alan Baldwin
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo made it onto the podium at the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, but only after dark and with no sign of any other drivers.
Fifth on the track at the finish, the Australian was promoted to fourth after team mate Max Verstappen was handed a time penalty and then moved up to third when stewards also demoted Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
By then Vettel had disappeared, leaving behind a trophy that he had collected alongside Mercedes' race winner Lewis Hamilton and championship leader Nico Rosberg.
The 135,000 strong crowd had also long gone.
"I probably would have got Juan to get amongst it," he laughed when asked about the missed chance of another trademark 'shoey' -- the pouring of champagne into his boot that, increasingly, some unlucky victim is made to drink.
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, a former F1 grand prix winner, was the podium interviewer and would have been the recipient of the dubious accolade.
"Obviously I'm happy to get the points and whatever," added the Australian, whose extra points ensured he will end the season third in the championship and best of the rest after Mercedes.
"I'm honestly quite proud of that this year, sure would have been nice to get up on the podium and enjoy it but nonetheless that was the situation today."
In a wild finish to what had been a processional race, Ricciardo and Verstappen both tangled with an increasingly irate Vettel.
The Dutch driver had cut a corner while defending against Vettel and then ignored the German's demands for him to cede the place, his team explaining that they were waiting for race direction to decide.
Turning the air blue, Vettel then came under attack from Ricciardo on fresher tyres. They made contact, with Vettel later punished for moving while braking -- something that was cracked down on at the previous race in Texas.
Ricciardo did not hold back either, saying his former Red Bull team mate should not have been on the podium.
"Obviously I was quite frustrated with the incident and all that," said Ricciardo. "I still had a lot of fun with that battle. Being the hunter at the end is so much more fun than just driving around by yourself.
"The race came alive and obviously got a bit spicy but a cool day."
Media duties over, he and Verstappen then sneaked up onto the podium.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ian Ransom)