DANIEL Ricciardo took his second trip to the podium this year with a strong third place in an incident-packed Monaco F1 Grand Prix last night.
The Perth driver finished a fraction of a second behind the Ferrari of second-placed Kimi Raikkonen, who was three seconds astern of winner and teammate Sebastien Vettel.
Ferrari led from start to finish on the narrow, twisty streets of the principality’s iconic circuit, with pole-sitter Raikkonen leading until lap 40 of the 78-lap race.
He was called in for an early tyre change, which let Vettel take the lead, but the move was widely seen as a Ferrari ploy to let Vettel win and extend his lead the driver’s championship.
It did not sit well with the inscrutable Finn.
Ricciardo started from fifth on the grid and stayed out longer than teammate Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, a judicious move that let him leapfrog the two and rejoin the race with a clear track in front.
He made the most of it, steadily cutting into Raikkonen’s lead and was just marginally behind at the finish, despite clipping a wall in the frantic final laps.
There was lots of drama back in the pack, starting with Nico Hulkenberg making a rare retirement with a blown gearbox on his Renault, Jenson Button (McLaren) and Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) almost collided in the pits and some laps later did collide, with Wehrlein’s car ending up on its side.
Marcus Ericsson then crashed his Sauber and Stoffel van Doorne did the same with his McLaren.
Next, Sergio Perez (Force India) and Daniil Kvyat had a good scrap that ended with Kvyat’s Toro Rosso against the barriers.
Finishing behind the leading trio were Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), Verstappen (Red Bull), Carlos Sainz Jnr, who put in a sterling drive for Toro Rosso and Lewis Hamilton, who started from 13th and climbed back to seventh.
The final three championship points scorers were Romain Grosjean (Haas), Felipe Massa (Williams) and the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.
On the podium, a jubilant Vettel took his trophy from Prince Albert, a wide-smiling Ricciardo kissed his trophy, but Raikkonen’s face confirmed he was gutted by his team management’s tactic.
Interviewed by compere Nico Rosberg, he said: “It is second place but it does not feel that good. It is one of those days.”
By contrast, Ricciardo was buoyant.
“I’m much happier today,” he said.
“It was cool to show some pace and we had that clear track. I didn’t think the tyres had that much more but I just got into that rhythm, and was able to punch out some good times.
“I’m just happy to be back on the podium to be honest. That was definitely the icing on the cake and is a reward for myself and the team.”
Team principal Christian Horner said to get both cars to the finish and a podium on merit was a very satisfactory result.
“Daniel used the free air to great effect, and that was where he obtained the podium finish,” he said.
“Even after surviving a brush with the wall at the re-start after the safety car, he achieved everything possible today. We now look forward to Montreal. Our congratulations are with Ferrari on winning this grand prix again after 16 years.”
The next F1 Grand Prix is in Montreal on June 11.