Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed his most successful race with McLaren to date in Barcelona, finishing the Spanish Grand Prix with a respectable sixth-place finish.
While Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen battled it out at the front, Ricciardo expertly wove his way through the midfield at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, bettering teammate Lando Norris for the first time this season.
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Ricciardo’s impressive drive was best shown when the team ordered Norris to let him pass late in the race in a move that ultimately allowed the 31-year-old to overtake former teammate Esteban Ocon and secure his equal-best finish this season.
It was a complete script flip for Ricciardo, who was ordered by his team to let Norris past during last month’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Before Sunday night’s race, Ricciardo had finished 9th, 7th and 6th — while Norris had finished 3rd, 4th and 5th in races this year.
Ricciardo last week revealed he was still having teething problems adjusting to his new McLaren — but Sunday’s result shows he is learning quickly.
The Aussie’s performance was by no means faultless, but it hopefully signified a long-awaited shift in momentum.
“It was a better weekend,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports after the race.
“The start was good, and that got me in front of a couple of faster cars … that meant I had to defend pretty much the whole race.
“We didn’t have the pace today, but it was nice to at least hold off a faster car and just put a better weekend together.
“I’m happier … it was a smoother weekend, and definitely the best one of the year so far.”
How Ricciardo’s race panned out
Ricciardo started at seventh on the grid but finished the opening lap in fifth spot after overtaking Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and former teammate Esteban Ocon in a dream start.
After the safety car was deployed in the eighth lap, Ricciardo became embroiled in a tussle with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez — and not for the last time.
A couple of the faster cars pitted in the 24th lap, meaning the 31-year-old was briefly racing in third place — but the podium dream was short-lived, Ricciardo tumbling back down to eighth after pitting himself.
He then passed Williams driver George Russell to slide up into seventh, moving up another spot when Perez pitted.
Finnish veteran Kimi Raikkonen was Ricciardo’s next target, the Aussie seamlessly passing the Alfa Romeo driver on the 29th lap.
Ricciardo once again found himself in an arm wrestle with Perez, who spent nearly 10 laps trying to get past the former Red Bull driver.
Daniel Ricciardo battling with Sergio Perez.Source:Getty Images
On the 40th lap, race control warned Ricciardo about weaving on the straights in front of Perez.
The Mexican finally managed to overtake Ricciardo after a brave move on Turn One of the 46th lap, and the Aussie slipped back down into sixth spot before pitting a second time.
After rejoining the action in eighth place, Ricciardo jumped up a spot when McLaren told Norris to let his teammate pass.
And the decision proved a masterstroke, with the Australian managing to overtake former teammate Ocon a few laps later.
Despite copping some pressure from Sainz in the final stages of the race, Ricciardo ultimately crossed the line in sixth to round out a successful weekend.
“With (Perez), I was doing as much as I could for as long as I could, and then obviously he got me, and then I had Carlos for the last quarter of the race,” Ricciardo said.
Attention now shifts to the upcoming Monaco Grand Prix, which will take place on Sunday, May 23.
Spanish Grand Prix Results
1st — Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2nd — Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3rd — Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
4th — Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
5th — Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
6th — Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
7th — Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
8th — Lando Norris (McLaren)
9th — Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
10th — Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
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