Lewis Hamilton lamented Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix among the dullest of his career as Daniel Ricciardo nursed his wounded Red Bull across the line for a remarkable victory.
Ricciardo was down on power for the majority of the sport’s most famous race, but bravely held off the challenge from Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton to take the chequered flag.
The Australian was denied a certain victory here at the principality two years ago when his team botched up a regulation pit stop, and his triumph on Sunday hung in the balance after he dramatically ran into trouble with 50 of the 78-lap marathon race still remaining.
But of all the sport’s venues to nurse a power issue, Monte Carlo, and its lack of straights, but plethora of narrow twists and turns, would surely be the one of choice.
Ricciardo was missing seventh and eighth gears but used all of his skill and race craft to keep Vettel at bay. So much so, that the Ferrari man gave up the ghost, and crossed the line seven seconds down.
For defending champion Hamilton, it was an unusually quiet race. The 33-year-old Englishman spent much of his outing grumbling about his tyres, and although he will take some comfort from losing only three championship points to Vettel at one of Mercedes’ bogey tracks, he admitted it was a boring spectacle.
“It was the least interesting race,” Hamilton, 14 points clear of Vettel, said. “We were just cruising around from lap six, literally cruising, so it wasn’t really racing.
“Daniel did a great job today, so I am super happy for him, but our engines were all turned down to make sure we got to the end.
“Monaco has got the biggest build-up and it is the most special race of the year, but this is now a race that’s gone for me.
“Formula One needs to apply a different schedule here. It should not be a one-stop race for example.
“From a racing driver’s point of view, we were never pushing. It was insane how little I was pushing. I was 10 seconds behind, but I was conflicted because in my heart I wanted to win this race, but the team just asked me to bring the car home.”
Hamilton could yet be joined by Ricciardo at Mercedes next year. His contract is up for renewal at the end of the season, and he did little to harm his credentials in what must be considered the finest all-round display of his career.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who is desperate to keep Ricciardo alongside Max Verstappen – the Dutchman who recovered from last to ninth following his practice crash – ranked the Australian’s winning performance alongside Michael Schumacher’s revered drive at the 1995 Spanish Grand Prix. Schumacher was stuck in fifth gear, but managed to finish second.
Ricciardo performed his traditional ‘shoey’ before offering the remainder of his champagne to Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene on the podium.
“We were controlling the race, and then we pitted and a few laps later after the pit stop I went on the throttle and I had what felt like half the amount of power,” Ricciardo explained.
“I expected my race to be over in the next few corners because it came on so suddenly. I could see Seb catching me and I thought ‘what do I have to win here?’
“But we did it, and it feels like redemption for 2016. I can put that behind me now.”