Ricciardo holds nerve to win Monaco GP despite power loss
MONACO (AP) — Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo steadied his nerve when victory threatened to escape him again as he overcame a significant midrace power loss to win the Monaco Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday.
After guzzling champagne from his sweaty shoe — as he likes to do — it was time to cool off. The popular Australian swan-dived into the swimming pool located on the roof of Red Bull's motorhome in Monaco's glitzy harbor.
Better known for his attacking prowess and razor-sharp overtaking, Ricciardo had earlier shown outstanding defensive driving to fend off Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari despite losing an estimated 25 percent of his engine power.
Vettel closed to within one second of Ricciardo with more than half of the 78-lap race left. It seemed certain the German would pass him at some point, but Ricciardo held firm for the seventh win of his career.
Even though the 3.34-kilometer (2.1-mile) street circuit is narrow and notoriously difficult to overtake on, it was still a remarkable drive by Ricciardo, given his damaging power deficit.
"So much went on for me in that race, trying to figure out what was going on," said Ricciardo, who was fastest in all three practice sessions as well as qualifying. "This was probably the best weekend of my career."
Vettel shaved a few points off championship leader Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who finished third.
"I think we had the pace," Vettel said after missing out on a 50th career win. "But Daniel had the answers all the time."
Hamilton made an audacious move by pitting for new tires several laps before his rivals, but was worried they would wear out by the end.
"It would have been nice to have come second but I did all I could," Hamilton said.
In the end, Ricciardo's winning margin was seven seconds — but only because Vettel lost time after the virtual safety car came out for the last few laps. The incident happened when Charles Leclerc shunted his Sauber into the back of Brendon Hartley's Toro Rosso. Drivers are not allowed to overtake when the VSC is deployed and must maintain a steady speed. It happened too late to influence the race.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth for Ferrari, ahead of Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas and Force India's Esteban Ocon.
Max Verstappen — Ricciardo's Red Bull teammate — finished ninth after starting from last having crashed prior to Saturday's qualifying.
A strong drive from Verstappen, gaining 11 positions, but the day belonged to Ricciardo.
It was his second win of the season after the Chinese GP last month, pushing him up to third in the title race.
It also felt like payback time.
Ricciardo thought he'd won in Monaco two years ago, leading from pole only to be undone by a botched pit stop which left him furious with his own team.
He drove like a man on a mission.
"Two years in the making and I finally feel redemption has arrived," Ricciardo said. "I thought the race was over."
He soon displayed his typical showmanship, standing perfectly still on his car, nodding slowly and then thumping his chest.
His team principal Christian Horner, who rushed over to hug him, was in awe.
"He lost about 25 percent of the power of the engine. That means his rear brake temperatures are going through the roof. He is having to cool the car," Horner said. "He is the complete article now. You can hear his composure in the car ... there is no panic."
As he usually does after a victory, Ricciardo took off his shoe and drank champagne out of it. Adrian Newey, the team's chief technical officer, also gulped some down albeit while cautiously pinching his nose.
Ricciardo then offered the huge bottle — but not the shoe — to Prince Albert of Monaco, who took a small sip.
Vettel reduced Hamilton's championship lead from 17 points to 14 in an intriguing championship tussle.
Ricciardo, Vettel and Hamilton have won two races each heading into the Canadian GP in two weeks' time.
Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire