Ricciardo can afford to smile after a superb drive

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AUSTRALIA’S Daniel Ricciardo turned on the drive of the day after starting back on the grid in Hungary. PETER COSTER reports:

EVERYONE had a smile after the Hungarian Grand Prix, except Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who finished third.

It would have been a surprise had the third man on the podium at the Hungaroring been anything other than his usual scowling self.

Paul di Resta, former F1 driver turned interviewer, tried to draw some warmth from “The Iceman” by saying his young son looked happy, to which the Kimster growled, “He’s always happy.”

The Finn stomped off to the drivers’ recovery room and while he likes a drink and has one named after him, the “Iceman,” they don’t serve schnapps in the recovery room.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was second and at least philosophical that it was the best Ferrari could do on the day and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won easily enough after starting on pole.

The driver of the day award went to Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who started 12th on the grid after being caught out when rain suddenly hit the circuit during qualifying and Red Bull was too slow to change his tyres to full wets.

The usual first lap melee saw him drop back to 16th, but from then on the Australian showed why he is the best overtaker in F1.

 

Ricciardo was punted off the track by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in the closing stages of the race but then passed Bottas to finish fourth.

The Formula One “circus”, as it is still referred to by those who remember its more carefree days, is now on the long summer break until the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa where the cars race down what seems a cliff and then up what seems a mountain through Eau Rouge.

It is the pinnacle of F1 skill and courage and where Australia’s Mark Webber raced side by side with Spanish champion Fernando Alonso in 2011 before passing him, their wheels almost touching, each driver knowing he could trust his life with his opponent.

Apart from Hamilton going into the second half of the season leading Vettel by 24 points in the world drivers’ championship, little has changed in the likely driver lineup for next season.

The German GP saw Mercedes confirm Bottas has signed for another year with Hamilton’s signature a formality.

Raikkonen will either remain at Ferrari or surrender his seat to Ferrari contract driver Charles Leclerc, who is gaining experience with the Ferrari-powered Sauber team.

As reported here last week after the German GP, the likelihood of Daniel Ricciardo driving for Mercedes or Ferrari next year ran out of road. Ricciardo has been offered a seat with McLaren, but why would he go there when Fernando Alonso is looking for a way out and likely to concentrate his efforts on winning the third leg of the triple crown of motor racing.

The former double world champion has already won Monaco twice and the 24-hours at Le Mans this year and now needs the Indianapolis to complete the trifecta.

Ricciardo says his motivation for changing teams has been getting a car that will win him the world drivers’ championship.

That hope must now rest with Red Bull, which is changing its Renault engines for Honda power next year.

It was Max Verstappen’s turn to pull off the circuit in the early stages of the Hungarian Grand Prix as his engine inexplicably lost revs following Ricciardo’s engine failure in Germany.

But Honda presents its own issues with the once-dominant engine manufacturer unable to find the pace it had in Formula One when the great Brazilian Ayrton Senna carried all before him.

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Author: Peter Coster

PETER COSTER is a former editor and foreign correspondent who has covered a range of international sports, including world championship fights and the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

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