Daniel Ricciardo says his “insane” victory in the Italian Grand Prix came after improved form that was possible due to the reset offered by Formula 1’s summer break.
The Australian has struggled to match Lando Norris since joining McLaren but was more competitive in Belgium after the enforced two-week shutdown in August, and in Monza he delivered his best showing of the year. Qualifying fifth on Friday, Ricciardo felt he had missed out on an opportunity but rose to third in the Sprint, starting on the front row for the main race after a penalty for Valtteri Bottas.
Ricciardo then jumped ahead of Max Verstappen off the line and led the whole race — aside from during the pit stop phase — to head a McLaren one-two ahead of Norris.
“I’ve just been sandbagging the whole year!” Ricciardo joked. “You know, thirds, fourths, fifths, you might as well just win. That’s what I did!
“Honestly, the August break is good, just to reset. I’ve felt better the last three weekends. To not only win, but to get a one-two, it’s insane! For McLaren to be on the podium is huge, let alone a one-two. This is for team papaya. For once, I’m lost for words.”
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Ricciardo kept Verstappen at bay throughout the first stint and was comfortably ahead of the field after the pit stops before Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen collided. Even without that incident, he says the way the race was panning out had given him confidence he could secure the win.
“There were some laps where (Verstappen) pushed up closer but I never really had to properly defend. He was there but I knew if I didn’t make a mistake … unless he kind of sent a little bit of a Hail Mary, it was going to be tough for him to pass.
“I think where I felt I was a little vulnerable was at the end of that stint, where the tires were going off, but I believe the others were suffering as well. So in my head I was thinking we were going to be vulnerable in that moment. I pitted and I think everyone else pitted as well, so I think we were all struggling at the same moment.
“And it was then, when we came back out in the lead, then I was like, ‘All right, we’ve got this today,’ like unless something unfortunate happens we can really win this race. From that moment on it was like… I think that’s when any last bit of belief you need you top it up and you’re like, ‘Someone is going to have to take it from me today, because otherwise we’re winning this thing.’”
With Norris backing him up in second and Ricciardo also adding the extra point for the fastest lap on the final lap, the pace shown by McLaren was something both drivers were keen to emphasize.
“Where I think we as a team can take so much fulfillment today is that we earned it today. We were leading and… well, we were one and three I think and we were putting ourselves in a great position.
“The team made good pit stops so like we put ourselves in a winning position and it wasn’t circumstances. I think that’s where we can really sleep tonight, knowing that we earned every bit of this today.”