DANIEL Ricciardo had one of his best races of the season with a third place in the Hungarian Grand Prix, but it was a nailbiter with Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel fast closing in on Ricciardo’s tyre-weary Red Bull Renault.
Lewis Hamilton led from start to finish ahead of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and for a while Ricciardo, who had a blinder of a start and led for the first 500m, seemed poised to get past Rosberg.
But he pitted fairly early for fresh tyres and while unable to get within striking distance of the Mercedes duo again, faced a challenge from Vettel’s Ferrari, running on fresher rubber, for third place. The Duncraig driver made it by 0.7 of a second.
A similar Red Bull-Ferrari battle raged for fifth place between Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn having gained eight places in the 70 lap race, after starting from 14th. He too could not get by the Red Bull, and finished a scant 0.4 seconds behind.
A wide-smiling Ricciardo said he was “absolutely” delighted with a podium finish, his third at the Hungaroring in the last three years.
“I’m really pleased with a podium today,” he beamed.
“I don’t think we could have got a win. Third was the best we could do and Seb (Vettel) got really close in the last three laps.
“Three podiums in a row here is great, it’s a good place for me. And now we’ve got another in seven days, so that’s another chance to be happy again.”
Team principal Christian Horner was also upbeat.
“Both drivers entered into battles with the respective Ferraris, Daniel versus Seb and Max versus Kimi (Raikkonen). There was some great racing between the four of them, some robust defending from our guys.
“It was great to see Daniel finishing on the podium again, and to close the gap on Ferrari to within one point (of the Manufacturers Championship) at the halfway point of the year.”
In seventh place, behind Raikkonen, was Fernando Alonso in the McLaren Honda, followed by Carlos Sainz Jnr’s Toro Rosso, Valtteri Bottas in the Williams and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg claimed the last championship point in 10th place.
The next Grand Prix is at Germany’s Hockenheim circuit on Sunday July 31.