With great power comes great responsibility. With great race comes great recap. Take a seat, because this is definitely longer than Melbourne’s.
Before the race began, the traditional drivers parade was damped by a bit of rain, with Daniel even complaining the weather was giving him a runny nose. But weather conditions changed a bit and on the outlap, Daniel was asked to not give away details on how he felt the track. That meant a lot about how strategy was going to play a part on the race.
By the formation lap, all cars spotted the green of the inters, except one. Carlos Sainz went with slicks in a track that was fairly damp, specially on the grid, but the rest of the track seemed pretty dry. Lights went out and on turn 3, Daniel went over Kimi Raikkonen and moved up to 4th. Right away, Virtual Safety Car deployed by a strayed Lance Stroll on the gravel, the first OUT of the race, still on lap 1.
While he went wide and out of the track on the first few corners, Sainz was right, the track was almost ready for slicks well taken cared of, and some the field went for pit stops during the VSC, with Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Max Verstappen staying out and in that order. Max had climbed from 16th to 5th less than 10 minutes into the race.
Mess came back again on lap 4, when a safety car situation was underway after Antonio Giovinazzi hit again the barriers on the pit straight, almost in the same area where he did the day before. All Top 5 took it to pits and made the change to slicks. In fact, everyone made it into the pits, since the queue by the Safety Car was taken into the pit lane to allow the straight to be cleaned up.
During the safety car, Bottas lost a few positions after a spin that made him drop to 12th, allowing Daniel climb up to 2nd behind Hamilton, with Fernando Alonso now on a surprising P6. When there’s greens again, Max passes Kimi for 3rd. And then he goes 2nd, passing Daniel who now was fighting against both Ferraris behind him.
Daniel started losing ground on Verstappen, reporting understeer, but he wasn’t the only one with issues, Kimi was also suffering from lack of power, particularly on turn 12. After multiple laps like this, Seb does a pass on his own teammate and starts to catch up on Dan. And this is when a BIG action moment for all kicks in.
The fight for 3rd saw a result we didn’t wanted, with Daniel failing to block Vettel and losing the position, but it was a great fight. First, the German went outside at turn 6, when attempted again wheel to wheel on turn 7. A bit of contact and not only a little smoke out of the tyres, but Daniel’s suffered a bit extra and the red marks on his supersofts was nowhere to be seen. It was a clean overtake, proof of great race craft by both drivers.
After that, Daniel started loosing ground on Vettel too (or was Seb gaining to get closer to Max?), but Raikkonen couldn’t catch him either. Max entered pits for a new set of supersofts after locking up pretty badly and losing 2nd to Vettel. Daniel followed up soon.
After a bit more pitstops, top 5 were HAM, VET, VER, RIC and RAI. That’s when the fight for the final step of the podium began between teammates, with only 5 laps to go. It was fairly close, but Daniel couldn’t find a way past and had to settle with 4th. Now, needless to say, the covering maneuvers by Max and the way that Dan tried to create or find a hole where to go through was one of the most exciting things we had seen since that fight Dan had with Vettel earlier this race. And while he couldn’t finish in front of both men, this result is more than what Red Bull were expecting.
Besides some cool silverware, Max also took home the Driver of the Day. On the DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award, Red Bull Racing took 3rd and 4th with 2.60 and 2.66.
“I’d have loved to have made it more of a battle. I feel like we got close but suffered a bit with the tyres. Even with DRS I didn’t get into a good place to pass. I thought about diving down the inside but it was wet and didn’t want to risk it.” – Ricciardo
“I don’t think there was much more I could do with what I had. It was close but not close enough.” – Ricciardo
“This [result] is condition dependent. We are still 45 seconds off the win. We still have work to do. It’s a good result for the team third and fourth but there is pace to find.” – Ricciardo
“I have mixed emotions, it’s obviously disappointing to miss out on the podium as it was so close today but as a team it’s a good result to finish third and fourth. I lost a lot of time in the first stint as I struggled to keep my front tyres alive and that pretty much put us out of a podium position. After the first pit stop I had good balance and speed which meant I could claw some time back and close the gap to the leaders. Towards the end of the race I could see that Max was struggling with his tyres but as soon as I got close to him I also began to struggle with mine.” – Ricciardo
“The team let us race but even though I was in the DRS zone I was not really close enough to pull off a convincing move. I had a look but the inside lines were still quite slippery into the hairpin and I was honestly never really close enough to make a move stick. It was also quite noticeable that the DRS effect is far less on the cars this year which didn’t help. As a team we should be pleased with the result and we learnt a lot today but we still have some work to do to close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari.” – Ricciardo
“We made the right calls today strategic-wise. We got ahead of the Ferraris but didn’t have pace to stay there. The guys raced really well, raced hard and it’s great to be on the podium.” – Christian Horner
“It was straight racing today between them. They’ve demonstrated they can race hard against each other and we’ll probably see more of that through the season. A fantastic drive from Max from where he started today. Both have driven extremely good races today.” – Christian Horner