Daniel Ricciardo was left to rue the intrusion of the Virtual Safety Car which he felt cost him a shot at splitting the Mercedes’ on the podium at the United States Grand Prix.
Starting from this place on the grid, the Australian got the jump on Nico Rosberg at the start and was running ahead of the German in the first half of the race.
“I was hoping it [the start] would go a bit better, but then Nico opted to go to the outside [of Turn 1] so I had some room on the inside,” Ricciardo explained after the race.
Surprisingly, Ricciardo was able to keep Hamilton at sight and Rosberg at bay through the opening stanza of the race.
“Everyone seemed to have a pretty similar pace, I guess Lewis was probably controlling it at the front but we seemed at the stage to be able to hold onto second,” he added.
Ricciardo’s hopes of maintaining his advantage, however, were undone by the retirement of teammate Max Verstappen. The Dutch driver lost drive exiting the hairpin that precedes the back straight, and after much dithering between he and his team over where to safely park his stricken car, he triggered a Virtual Safety Car when his parked car became stuck in gear.
“When I saw Max out there I thought ‘Ah hell, my boy’s done it again!'” Ricciardo continued.
“That was frustrating. [In] the Virtual Safety Car we lost 10 seconds to Nico; after the pit stops we would have had about five seconds on him and after the Virtual Safety Car he had close to five seconds [advantage] on me.
“It just would have been interesting, even if he caught me at the end, just to at least have a fight. I guess without [the VSC] it would have made [the race] a bit more spicy at the end. So that was that.
“Unfortunately third was the outcome but it’s still nice to be on the podium. It’s been a good weekend.
Looking ahead to the remaining races this season in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, Ricciardo was optimistic that Red Bull Racing could still threaten the dominant Silver Arrows and play a sideshow act in the title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
“On paper, Abu Dhabi is where I fancy my best chance is [for another win]. It’s been a strong circuit for me and I think us as a team, we’ve normally been pretty good there.
“Mexico’s still new, I think the surface is going to be a lot different when we go there next week. It’s a lot more rubbered in so it’s going to be a completely different track to last year.
“I think it’s been a while since we got one of the magical Brazil downpours, so maybe we can get one of those this year and have a chance.
We’ll keep trying, keep doing what we can. [The Mercedes] are hard to beat but maybe next time the Virtual Safety Car will help us out!”
Image via Red Bull Content Pool