Monaco 2016: Ricciardo’s Missed Opportunity

The 2016 Monaco Grand Prix was won by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. But it was Daniel Ricciardo who could’ve, and arguably, should’ve taken the win. Lights Out investigates how it all went wrong for the Australian driver. 

Up until Lap 31 of the Grand Prix, the weekend had been going incredibly well for the Red Bull driver. Thursday practice was strong, as he set a time that was sixth tenths faster than the rest of the field. There was a small blip in Free Practice 3, as Vettel set the pace, but Daniel was less than two tenths slower and ended up in 4th. 

Qualifying would turn out to be his highlight of the weekend, as he took his maiden pole position. A time of 01:13.622 was good enough for the very front, with Rosberg failing to usurp him on his final run, setting a time that was just under three tenths slower.

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To add a small amount of extra satisfaction, his team-mate, who had stolen his limelight in Spain, would be starting from the pit-lane after a collision with the wall broke his suspension. Ricciardo was confident of keeping the front spot throughout the 78 laps of the next day’s race. 

It’s my time! It’s my f***ing time!

Come race day, ominous dark clouds hung overhead with rain hitting the track right up until the race got underway. Conditions were so poor that the Grand Prix began under a safety car. On Lap 8, the racing resumed and Ricciardo made a good restart and gained 10 seconds in 5 laps. Rosberg had problems keeping the pace and the German was told to give his place up to his faster team-mate. He obliged; but Hamilton couldn’t catch Ricciardo, who had a lead of near to 15 seconds. 

The Red Bull driver pulled into the pits on Lap 24, swapping from the wet tyres that he had started on to intermediates. Hamilton would stay out and switch straight from wet to dry ultra-soft tyres on Lap 32. By Lap 28, Ricciardo had made up the time he lost from his first pit-stop and was back to just 0.5 seconds behind Hamilton. Daniel pitted on the lap after Lewis in a pit-stop that would be decisive in the story of the Grand Prix. 

Chaos in the pit-lane

Ricciardo got the call from his engineer to come into the pits and he willingly accepted. He pulled into his box where the mechanics were ready to place the fresh rubber on his car. The only problem was, the fresh rubber wasn’t there. In a catastrophic communication blunder by the team, the super-soft tyres hadn’t been prepared. Ricciardo waited in his pit-box as the seconds ticked by. It didn’t take too long though before he was on his way again. But the blunder was enough to cost him the race lead, when Hamilton blasted past the pit lane on the run up to Massenet.  

Daniel stuck with the British driver, searching for every opportunity he could to get by. His chance finally came on Lap 37.

Hamilton blunder gives Ricciardo a chance

Hamilton went too deep into the Nouvelle Chicane and cut it slightly. He ran over the bump and rejoined, just staying ahead of the Red Bull. On the exit of the chicane, Ricciardo had better speed and made a move down the right hand side of the Mercedes. But it was not to be, Hamilton aggressively closed the door. The move had the potential to take both of them out of the race.

The incident was under investigation but no action was taken. It was deemed to be a racing incident, in the same vein as Hamilton’s collision with his team-mate was in Spain. 

Ricciardo, now truly riled up, was on a mission. Half way through Lap 53, Daniel attempted another move on the entry to the chicane which Hamilton had previously cut. 

But it was not to be, and after this attempted manoeuvre, Ricciardo slipped back. The super-soft tyres were not able to match the pace of the ultra-softs to the race end.

Ricciardo was visibly upset as he collected his trophy for Second Place, despite the positive of it being his first podium of the year. Hamilton meanwhile celebrated with Justin Bieber. 

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After the race, Daniel told the world how the win had escaped him.

I don’t even want to comment on the race to be honest. Thank-you to the fans. I guess from the outside we put on a show — it shouldn’t have been as exciting as it was to be honest. That’s two weekends in a row now I’ve been screwed. So it sucks, it hurts. I was called in the box, I didn’t make the call. But they should have been ready. It hurts. I don’t have anything else to say to be honest. I felt I was the quickest in all positions, but second place doesn’t really show it.”

The inquest at Red Bull will undoubtedly continue through the week. The team have let him down two races in a row now, following on from the dodgy pit strategy in Spain. Next up is Canada, where Ricciardo took his maiden win. Could things finally come together for him there? 

If anyone was Senna-esque today, it was Ricciardo – who out-classed the entire field all weekend. Hamilton’s block on Ricciardo and the Australian’s own pit problems ultimately decided who took the win. Lewis Hamilton regained some valuable points in the championship battle, while Ricciardo still lingers in 3rd. It’s all still to play for as we head into the Canadian Grand Prix. 


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