It was, in the words of team boss Christian Horner, a “bit of a static race” for Red Bull Racing in Brazil. But nonetheless, the performance of Daniel Ricciardo, who recovered from a difficult start to eventually finish 6th, provided a silver lining to an otherwise somewhat underwhelming weekend for the team…
Daniel Ricciardo fought back from dead last to snatch sixth place at the Brazilian Grand Prix, as Red Bull Racing teammate Max Verstappen secured the fastest lap of the race.
Starting 14th on the grid, after a 10-place penalty for an engine component change, Ricciardo made a sluggish start and was then spun round when Stoffel Vandoorne and Kevin Magnussen collided.
The Australian dropped to the back of the field but recovered to the pits and began a charge through the field, pulling off a flurry of impressive overtaking moves to salvage eight points and see the chequered flag for the first time in three races.
“The start was not ideal,” said Ricciardo. “It was quite tight and I saw a space on the outside so I tried to get as much room as I could, but I knew there were two cars on the inside so there was always a risk they would have contact and then come into me.
“I think that’s what happened, but I don’t regret trying. Fortunately, the car didn’t suffer any damage. We just changed the tyres and then I could get on with the race and make some good overtakes, and it was a good race.”
Team principal Christian Horner said: “Daniel drove a very strong race as usual, made some great passing moves on the brakes from far back into Turn 1 and finished in P6 which, today, was probably the optimum.”
Teammate Verstappen ran fourth for much of the race, but surrendered a place to the recovering Lewis Hamilton, who had started from the pits.
Verstappen struggled with his tyres in the closing stages and won a debate with his team to pit again for a fresh set, knowing he had enough of a gap to retain fifth.
“In general, this is not a track that suits our car and, together with the power deficit on the straights, it is very hard for us,” said Verstappen.
“You then try and catch up on the corners, but you ask too much of the tyres and get more drop-off.
“I didn’t want to drive the last 10 or 15 laps with difficult tyres and, at the end of the day, I wasn’t going to lose a position, so we decided to make a second pit stop.
“From there on the race was gone, but I pushed for the fastest lap. I didn’t get it in Mexico, so I’m really pleased to take it here.”
Ahead of the weekend, Verstappen and Ricciardo took a break from their preparations to take part in a Futevólei exhibition match at the Beach Aerna in Morumbi, Sao Paulo.
The duo competed in a three-a-side match of the with some of Sao Paulo’s finest professional players of the popular Brazilian sport, which mixes football with volleyball.
Ricciardo and Verstappen were also persuaded to take on a muscle-stretching lesson in the art of Capoeria, as the pair joined local athletes at the top of one of the city’s impressive high-rise buildings.
“It’s kind of dance mixed with martial arts and it seems like it has constant flow, constant movement,” said Ricciardo, whose Red Bull Racing team’s Renault engine is powered by Esso Synergy fuel.
“The movement, I could grasp, but flexibility was the hardest thing. If I’m being realistic I was about a four out of ten,” he said.
Verstappen was even more critical of his performance. “I was pretty bad, but at least I tried,” he said. “My performance was a one out of 10, because I’m quite strict with myself, quite realistic.”
Formula One now heads to Abu Dhabi, with the final Grand Prix of the season taking place at the Yas Marina circuit on 24-26th November.