Ricciardo pulls off F1 miracle in Monaco

Daniel Ricciardo has drawn comparisons to F1 great Michael Schumacher after overcoming nightmare issues with his car to win the Monaco Grand Prix.

Holding off a challenge from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to claim his second win of the season, Ricciardo wrestled gremlins for more than 50 laps of the unforgiving street circuit.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was quick to compare the Australian driver to Schumacher’s epic win at Barcelona when he drove much of that race in fifth gear.

“This is right up there with Schumacher in 1995,” Horner said on the radio as Ricciardo crossed the line.

Horner later corrected himself saying he was actually referring to the German’s drive in Spain in 1994.

On lap 28, Ricciardo reported an issue serious enough for the team to consider telling him to stop the car and save the engine.

And, according to Horner, the car’s issues ran deeper than just the engine power.

“The engine guys could see from the data that the MGU-K had stopped completely,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said referring to the part of the Renault power unit that recovers the energy generated while braking.

“At that point there was talk in the background of retiring the car… my position was, ‘We’re leading the Monaco Grand Prix, we’ll run until this engine stops’.

“He was pulling away from Hamilton with no MGU-K – he drove an unbelievable race.

“He could have been in Apollo 13, I tell you, the way he was dealing with the issues today.”

After a late Virtual Safety Car, Ricciardo eventually won from Vettel by seven seconds.

The failure of the unit meant also the car’s rear brakes were overheating and in danger of catching fire.

Ricciardo was simply relieved to get “payback” for Monaco 2016 – a race he also started on pole but that was wrecked by a botched pit stop.

“Two years in the making and I finally feel redemption has arrived,” he said.

“I lost power halfway and I thought the race was over. Thanks to the team we got it back. I’m stoked.

“I could see Seb catching me. I still don’t know how we did it.”

“So much went on for me in that race, trying to figure out what was going on. This was probably the best weekend of my career.”

Ricciardo appeared emotional, even tearful, as he sat in his car moments after crossing the finish line after 78 laps on the 3.34km street circuit.

He celebrated with his trademark shoey on the podium.

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.

Although Vettel was consistently within touching distance after the Red Bull suffered the issues, he could not squeeze his Ferrari past.

Hamilton also looked to be in contention for Mercedes but fell away in the closing stages as he struggled for grip after running longer on ultrasoft tyres, with his championship lead over Vettel cut to 14 points.

Kimi Raikkonen hung on to fourth despite Valtteri Bottas’ best efforts, while Max Verstappen gained 11 places to finish ninth after starting at the back of the grid.

Verstappen, running in an evidently quick Red Bull car, was under pressure after a poor Saturday but insisted he “maximised the result” in the race with several fine sweeping overtaking moves.

Esteban Ocon made the most of his fine qualifying by keeping hold of sixth place, with Pierre Gasly an impressive seventh for Toro Rosso after taking advantage of Fernando Alonso’s first DNF of the season.

Alonso, while attempting to keep Gasly’s Honda-powered car at bay, suffered a gearbox issue in another frustrating afternoon for McLaren – with Stoffel Vandoorne down in 14th.

Alonso’s retirement on Lap 52 was, unusually at the jewel in F1’s crown, the first of the race. But, as ever, there was chaos to follow in Monte Carlo when Charles Leclerc smashed into Brendon Hartley at the Nouvelle Chicane.

There was a puff of smoke out the back of Leclerc’s Sauber as, at his home race, he suffered a brake failure at the exit of the high-speed tunnel. What followed was heavy damage, and a Virtual Safety Car.

Luckily for Ricciardo that VSC did not have an impact on his race, with the leading cars opting against a late pit-stop.

It was another nightmare Sunday for Williams, meanwhile. Sergey Sirotkin, starting 13th, was quickly serving a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for having his tyres fitted too late pre-race, while Lance Stroll suffered two punctures.

They were the last drivers to finish the race.  (Courtesy news.com.au)