Daniel Ricciardo has won his first Formula 1 victory in more than three years and McLaren’s first in nine after feuding championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen took each other out in a heavy crash.
This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.
Ricciardo had jumped Verstappen for the lead off the line to control the first phase of the race, the Australian’s centimetre-perfect defending compensating for his slower car.
But the Dutchman’s race unravelled at the pit stop window. Called in on lap 23 to cover Ricciardo’s stop one lap prior, his mechanics were slow changing tyres, holding him in his box for more than 11 seconds and forcing him down the order.
The gears were in motion for his on-track meeting with Hamilton. The Briton had been stuck in fourth behind Lando Norris in the sister McLaren for most of the first part of the race, but the Mercedes pit wall called him in earlier than planned, on lap 25, to capitalise on Verstappen’s tardy tyre change.
But Hamilton’s own stop was slow, and the result was to eject him from pit lane side by side with the fuming Verstappen, him on the inside and the Dutchman on the outside of the first turn.
They swept into the turn, and Hamilton squeezed Verstappen onto the apex of the second corner as the chicane swapped from right to left. Verstappen refused to yield, instead bouncing his car over the high kerbs and into the Mercedes.
Wheels made contact, sending the Red Bull Racing car’s rear high into the air and back down onto the top of Hamilton’s car his rear-right tyre landing directly onto the halo, preventing contact with Hamilton’s head by mere centimetres, and the now entwined cars slid to rest in the gravel.
“That’s what you get when you don’t leave the space,” Verstappen radioed his team from the wreckage. He extricated himself also immediately and stormed back to his garage, not stopping for the still-belted Hamilton.
The Briton took longer to extricate himself from beneath the rear of the Red Bull, and once back in the paddock contended that Verstappen knew he was putting them at risk of a crash when he decided to run over the kerbs rather than cut the chicane and rejoin behind him.
The issue was heard by the stewards after the race.
The safety car was deployed to clear the wreckage, and Ricciardo led the field when the race resumed with 23 laps still to run. Norris made quick work of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc at the restart with a brave move with two wheels on the grass through the flat-out Curva Grande to take second, and the Monegasque slipped further back behind Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas, who joined the top four.
Momentum seemed to swing to the Mexican and Finn in the faster cars, and Bottas showed immense pace with a softer set of tyres than the three drivers ahead. Having cut easily through the midfield in the first half of the race, it seemed only a matter of time until he chased down the lead.
Norris could see the threat and suggested to the team that Ricciardo was slowing him down, but the Australian upped the pace when the pit wall explained to him the threat, putting pressure on Bottas to move past the slower Perez before his tyres expired.
But it was easier said than done. With Perez benefitting from Norris’s slipstream, Bottas’s straight-line speed advantage was neutralised, neutralising the battle.
All Ricciardo had to do was manage his gap to Norris to claim his first win since the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix and the fastest lap on the final tour was a neat exclamation point on his best weekend of the year.
“Deep down I knew this was going to come, so thanks for having my back,” an emotional Ricciardo said over team radio on his return to pit lane. “And for anyone who thought I left, I never left, just moved aside for a while.”
The win was equally meaningful for the McLaren team, which hadn’t won a race since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix and hadn’t finished with its cars in first and second since June 2010.
“To not only win but get a one-two, it’s insane,” Ricciardo said. “For McLaren to be on the podium is huge, let alone a one-two.
“So this is for Team Papaya. For once I’m lost for words.”
Norris was equally excited to play his role in achieving the historic result.
“We’ve had a pretty awesome weekend,” enthused the 21-year-old. “Four years ago I joined the team, we’ve been working towards this, and we got a one-two finally.
“I’m happy for of course Daniel getting the win and me P2. I’m just happy for the win.”
Bottas couldn’t get past Perez but was promoted to third after the Mexican copped a five-second penalty for overtaking Charles Leclerc off the track earlier in the race, capping off a strong weekend for the Finn, who started 18th with an engine penalty after setting the fastest time in qualifying and winning the Saturday sprint race.
“Starting from the back is never easy,” he said. “I told the team I was going to be on the podium today as well.
“I’m glad we could get more points than Red Bull. I think otherwise I maximized where I started.”
Leclerc finished fourth ahead of the penalised Perez and Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz.
Lance Stroll finished seventh ahead of Fernando Alonso and Williams driver George Russell, with Esteban Ocon completing the top 10.