MONACO: Daniel Ricciardo came of age as a world championship contender on Sunday when he overcame chronic power problems to claim a cherished and redemptive triumph for Red Bull at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Two years after being deprived of victory by a bungled late pit stop in 2016, the ever-smiling Australian led from pole to flag, on the way resisting sporadic pressure from Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
It was his first Monaco victory, his second this season and the seventh of his career, but a landmark feat heralded by his team boss Christian Horner.
"You have done an amazing job there – you are our hero!,” said team chief Christian Horner, who revealed that Ricciardo had lost a potential two seconds a lap when an engine part failed.
“I don’t know how you did that. Unbelievable. Payback!”
Ricciardo was overjoyed. "Two years in the making - I finally feel like the redemption has arrived. We had problems. We had a lot to deal with during the race. I felt power loss and I thought the race was done."
"We got home just using six gears. But I'm stoked…. There were a few doubts that came in mid-race, but we've won Monaco! And it feels good."
Ricciardo came home 7.3 seconds clear of Vettel after 78 largely processional laps with championship leader Lewis Hamilton finishing third for Mercedes.
Hamilton’s lead was trimmed from 17 to 14 points in the title race.
“Thank God that’s over,” said Hamilton. “That was the most boring race I’ve ever taken part in.”
He added: “Big congratulations to Red Bull and to Daniel. They did a great job and they were the quickest. We knew that would be the case.”
Vettel said: “We had the pace, it was a tricky race. Daniel had the answers at all times. He was a bit stronger, we couldn't follow, and I was going through the tyres a bit quicker.”
Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth in the second Ferrari ahead of fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes and Esteban Ocon, who was sixth for Force India.
Pierre Gasly finished seventh for Toro Rosso ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Renault, Dutchman Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull, who had started 20th on the grid, and Carlos Sainz in the second Renault.
Ricciardo made a clean start and stayed in control throughout while at the back, his Red Bull team-mate Verstappen who had failed to qualify after crashing in final practice, made short work of the tail-enders around him on the opening lap.
He was up to 14th by lap nine when the leaders began to think about their pit stops, with a bold Hamilton going for an ‘under-cut’ on lap 12 to switch from the short-life ‘hypers’ to ‘ultras’ in a bid to make up time and pass Vettel, but after rejoining seventh behind Ocon, he had to work to regain places.
Ricciardo also pitted, on lap 17, and within a lap the original grid order was re-established thanks to all the leading group switching to new rubber.
On lap 28, Red Bull were given worse news when Ricciardo reported ‘losing power.’ Vettel was faster behind him by six-tenths and closing the gap.
“We can see what’s going on,” Red Bull responded by radio. “You just need to keep it smooth. Keep it focused.” “Yeh – but I’ve got no power though,” he replied with 48 laps of the 78 to go.
By lap 32, Ricciardo’s lead was down to 1.2 seconds with Hamilton nine seconds adrift in third.
"Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help,” said Ricciardo, whose superior chassis and smooth driving allowed him to fend off Vettel, struggling with tyre wear.
Tyre performance was clearly the most telling factor as Ricciardo hung on grimly ahead of Vettel and a frustrated, grumbling Hamilton, who variously described his tyres as bald, grained and worse, but continued to close on the leading duo.
By lap 50, they were separated by only 2.6 seconds.
Verstappen continued to supply the thrills and climbed to ninth, when he passed Sainz under late braking by running over the kerbs at the chicane. A fastest lap followed soon after.
With six laps remaining, the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was deployed after Monegasque Charles Leclerc suffered a brake failure in the tunnel and could not avoid driving his Sauber into the rear of New Zealander Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso as he braked for the chicane. Both men escaped unhurt.