In a chaotic finale to Formula 1’s British Grand Prix Daniel Ricciardo, almost unseen, equalled Renault’s best result since it returned to the championship.
For much of the weekend Renault had been locked in a battle with customer team McLaren, which had a slight edge in terms of pure performance, particularly through Silverstone’s high-speed sections.
Ricciardo qualified eighth but vaulted to sixth on a strong opening lap, taking a spot from Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, while also getting ahead of Lando Norris.
However shortly after the restart Norris got back past with a brilliant move around Luffield, with the Briton’s momentum almost carrying him past team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr.
It left Ricciardo seventh – but by the time the chequered flag came out he was just 1.1s behind podium finisher Charles Leclerc, in fourth, matching the best finish of his Renault career.
Crucial to Ricciardo’s result was his persistence with Norris and the tyre failures that affected two rivals.
On lap 49 Ricciardo remained with Norris through the high-speed Maggots/Becketts/Chapel section where following can be difficult due to the effect of the dirty air. Even then he was some way back as the pair approached the medium-speed right-hander at Stowe. Ricciardo pulled off one of his trademark late moves on the inside of Norris to grab the position and leave the McLaren driver with no opportunity to counter.
“When I got out of the car I asked Michael, my trainer, if they broadcast the move on Lando, and he said they did not,” he said.
“I had quite a late run on DRS, the effect came fairly late in the straight. It might’ve been clipping as well, the battery. I caught him late and I did not really feel at the start of Hangar Straight that I was going to have it, but I got the run so I thought I will dive into the inside and try at least put my nose there.
“But by the time we braked I was already pretty much there. So it was a pretty straightforward move in the end. It was nice to get that one on him, and just give them a taste of next year! No, I’m just kidding! Well I am but I am not…”
That move netted Ricciardo sixth – already a strong result – but when Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz Jr. suffered front-left tyre failures it elevated the Australian to fourth spot. With Ferrari understandably cautious over tyre wear a slow final lap from Leclerc allowed Ricciardo to take three seconds out of him – crossing the line just 1.1s down on the Ferrari driver.
“It feels good, it feels good for sure,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong I’m happy but as a competitor you always want more. I saw that Charles was 1.1 seconds in front. So I’m like so close! It was really cool.
“The race had like spikes of chaos, and then there were moments a bit of monotony. As we see sometimes on these high-speed circuits.
“But when there were the spikes there was a lot going on. It was cool another good first lap. That is something I really wanted to improve on this year. So that was strong.
“We are in there at the end chasing the McLarens down, and then punctures and chaos. It was wild.
“And then through all that I saw the Ferrari getting closer, and I spoke to Charles in the [press] pen, I think we had a bit of pace on him towards the end. We will see how we go in seven days’ time. Maybe have a bit more for crack.”