COMMENTATOR Martin Brundle put it best: Daniel Ricciardo is the burglar of Formula 1.
He steals the race wins that any train of logic would see to go to his rivals, and the Chinese Grand Prix proved the perfect illustration of his special set of skills.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said on the podium. “I don’t seem to win boring races, they’re all pretty fun.”
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‘JUST VERY BAD’: Verstappen owns up to mistake after hitting Vettel
A mid-race Safety Car shook up an otherwise tense fight between Mercedes and Ferrari for the win, the silver and red crews asleep at the wheel as Red Bull pounced to pit both its cars for new softer tyres.
From fourth and sixth, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were immediately on the move on the restart.
Ricciardo soon picked off Kimi Raikkonen, before nabbing Verstappen after the Dutchman ran off the track while trying to pass Hamilton.
The reigning world champion was next to fall, Ricciardo taking third away at the Turn 14 hairpin, before repeating the dose on Sebastian Vettel a couple of laps later.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to lick the stamp and send it,” Ricciardo said.
“We had the soft tyre so I knew I could at least get a little bit more out of the braking than them.
“A lot of the time you just get one chance to try so I thought I’d make the most of the opportunity.”
Vettel wasn’t in third for long; contact from Verstappen sent them both spinning at the hairpin, the Red Bull driver copping a 10 second penalty, while Vettel sank down to eighth at the chequered flag.
Ricciardo then thraded the needed as Bottas tried to close the door at the first hairpin, but it was too late: the Red Bull was through into a lead it would not lose.
The win is the sixth of Ricciardo’s career, hailing the work of his crew to change his engine to get him on track to qualifying with just 30 seconds to spare.
“Put ourselves 24 hours ago, I thought we may be starting at the back of the grid,” Ricciardo said.
“Firstly, thanks to the boys. Yesterday I thanked them after qualifying, but this is the real reward for that work. The mechanics worked their butts off.”
Bottas and Raikkonen rounded out the podium, the former picking up the lead of the race after the first round of pit stops, undercutting Vettel with an earlier pit stop while the Ferrari driver lost time on his in-lap.
“It is disappointing. We gave it everything we had,” Bottas, in his 100th grand prix, said. “It felt like we should have had the victory, but not today.”
Ferrari held off Raikkonen’s stop until much later than the remainder of the leaders, to the point that Bottas and Vettel passed him before he was called to the lane, returning to the track in sixth place.
However, the Finn’s tyre advantage meant he had better speed than the Mercedes and teammate Vettel, able to hold off the penalised Verstappen in the closing laps to seal the podium.
Red Bull’s win adds a fresh wrinkle to a season in which Ferrari had surged out in front, with Vettel stunning Hamilton and Mercedes by taking the first two races of the season in Australia and Bahrain.
Mercedes have edged in front in the constructors’ championship by a single point from the Italian team, who saw Vettel’s lead at the top of the drivers’ standings cut to nine points by Hamilton.
– with AAP