By Liam Butterworth
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo moved from sixth to first within eight laps in Shanghai. (AP: Andy Wong)
Daniel Ricciardo jokes that he doesn’t “seem to win boring races”.
After the sixth win of his career at the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, there does seem to be a trend forming.
In all six of those wins, Ricciardo has started from outside the top three on the starting grid, and his drive from sixth on Sunday was from the equal lowest position in the history at the Shanghai International Circuit.
The Red Bull driver put on an overtaking clinic, moving from sixth to first within eight laps, and flew past teammate Max Verstappen, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
All that came after the 28-year-old’s engine blew up in the final practice and his mechanical crew had to work just to get him to qualifying.
Ricciardo’s efforts in overtaking four of the top-five drivers in the competition in quick succession came after a switch to soft tyres while the safety car was on the track.
Racing started again on Lap 36 of 56 and Ricciardo had moved past fifth-placed Raikkonen the next tour. By Lap 45, he snuck inside Bottas to take the lead.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner called Ricciardo’s drive “absolutely clinical”.
Trademark of his driving
Red Bull’s Dan Ricciardo is regarded as one of the best overtakers in Formula 1. (Reuters: Aly Song)
The Perth-raised driver made 43 passing moves in 2017, more than any other driver, including many in a memorable race where he moved from 16th to fourth in the 2017 Italian GP at Monza.
That tally was in just 20 races and came with Ricciardo retiring in six of them.
SkySportsF1 tweet: “Max and Daniel are the best overtakers, but Max messes up too much so that makes Daniel the best overtaker and he just makes it stick. It is awesome to watch,” says Rosberg.”
His “three-in-one” pass at the Azerbaijan GP in Baku was awarded the ‘pass of the year’ in a fan poll on the Formula 1 website.
It was an award he had won in 2014 after his stunning overtake of then teammate and defending world champion Vettel at Monza.
Verstappen and Ricciardo have topped the passing charts the past few years, but 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg says the Australian comes out on top.
“Max [Verstappen] and Daniel [Ricciardo] are the best [at passing], but Max just messes up too much,” Rosberg said.
“Daniel just makes it stick and that makes him the best in Formula 1. He’s really a huge talent at overtaking.
“When I was racing he was the guy I hated having behind me the most.”
Horner has also described Ricciardo as, “arguably the best overtaker in the business” after Hamilton neglected to mention the Australian when rating the best four drivers in F1 in December.
The Brit got a taste of Ricciardo’s daring on Sunday, with the Red Bull driver braking late to fly past the Mercedes man into third on Lap 40.
“Sometimes you have just got to lick the stamp and send it,” Ricciardo said of the move in his typically laidback fashion.
“I enjoyed it very much. We had the soft tyres, so I knew I could get more out of the braking than them. A lot of the time you get one chance to try so I make the most of every opportunity.”
Ricciardo celebrated the sixth win of his career by drinking out of his shoe. (Reuters: Aly Song)
‘I thought about pulling out … I’m just kidding’
Ricciardo’s move to overtake Bottas and take the lead on Lap 45 was equally as cunning.
The Red Bull driver snuck inside Bottas heading into a corner and never looked back.
“It was close [with Bottas], it was hard but fair. But I saw him defend so I wanted to go shallower, but he came a bit more,” Ricciardo said.
“I thought about pulling out … no, I’m just kidding … I knew there would be enough room, the tyres had enough grip.
“Worse case, I went wide, and I’d have another go.”
The Finnish driver seemed resigned to the fact he was going to get picked off.
“I tried to defend but ultimately, with the better tyres, he could really brake quite a lot later and got inside,” Bottas said.
“Like he said, it was all fair and like this. I think it was just a matter of time, with the pace he was going.”
“I was going to defend, it is always a compromise how extreme you go because if you go very extreme then he is definitely going to get you in the exit if he can choose the line.
“But he tends to find space on the inside even if you defend.”