Perth driver Daniel Ricciardo endures wet and wild Brazilian F1 Grand Prix to finish eighth

Daniel Ricciardo leads Max Verstappen  during the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace. Picture: Adam Pretty/Getty Images
Daniel Ricciardo leads Max Verstappen during the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace. Picture: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

LEWIS Hamilton won from teammate Nico Rosberg, but the chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix will be remembered for being the wettest, longest, most spectacular and bizarre race of the 2016 Formula One season.

And for Daniel Ricciardo it was one the popular Perth driver would prefer to forget, even though his eighth place was impressive, given the wet conditions and a five-second penalty for a pit lane infringement.

Persistent rain delayed the start by 10 minutes and then the first seven laps were run behind the safety car.

But conditions were so treacherous that seasoned driver Romain Grosjean crashed his Haas – on the warm-up lap.

Six laps later Marcus Ericsson spun his Sauber and hit a barrier to bring out the safety car, but seconds after the re-start, Kimi Raikkonen lost control of his Ferrari on the main straight, and was nearly hit by several cars before the race was red-flagged.

At that stage Hamilton was leading from Rosberg and Red Bull’s 19-year-old Dutch star Max Verstappen, who would go on to put in the fastest lap and the drive of the day.

At the re-start Verstappen made a brave and surprising move on Rosberg, passing the German driver on the outside of a corner to secure second place, then set off in pursuit of Hamilton.

Trailing by less than a second, he lost control of his Red Bull at about 280km/h but somehow made an incredible save, missing the crash barrier by a couple of metres; but he stayed ahead of Rosberg.

“The heartbeat went a bit higher there,” Verstappen calmly told his crew on the  team radio.

But with second place seemingly secure, Red Bull decided to call him in to change to harder tyres.

It was a big mistake as rain started falling more heavily on the Interlagos circuit.

Then home-town hero Felipe Massa, in his final race, crashed his Williams and brought the safety car out yet again.

Red Bull called in both cars for fresh tyres but fitted Ricciardo with intermediates and Verstappen with extreme wets. They restarted way back in the pack, seemingly out of reach of a top-10 finish.

But while Ricciardo made up several places, his young teammate revelled in the conditions and in an inspired drive rapidly picked off not only Ricciardo, but also competitors such as Alonso, Nasr, Hulkenberg, Sainz, and Vettel, and took the final podium place from Force India’s Sergio Perez on the penultimate lap.

Rosberg goes to the season’s final race in Abu Dhabi 12 points clear of Hamilton, and has to get a podium finish to claim his first world championship.

Daniel Ricciardo stays a secure third in the championship, irrespective of the outcome.

“It was a frustrating race,” Ricciardo said.

“We never really felt like we got lucky with the strategy; every time we made a change with the tyres there was a safety car or a red flag.

“We lost positions and obviously we could not predict what was going to happen, but the real difficulty was my visibility, it was a struggle as my visor kept fogging up.

“It’s a shame as the car was a lot better than eighth.”

It was a much better day for teammate Verstappen.

“I think the word for today is ‘exciting’,” he said.

“I overtook Nico (Rosberg) around the outside of turn three which was really fun to do, then I started chasing Lewis (Hamilton) which resulted in me having a massive moment in the final sector.

“I was really lucky to keep it out of the guard rail. After that scare my pace was still good and I held onto P2.

“I was told Daniel had pitted for Intermediates and was going fast so I followed that plan. But then more rain came, so I had to pit again for wets.

“From there on the race was really good fun, I just kept my head down and managed to get past quite a few cars in the remaining laps.

“At the end when I crossed the line it felt like a victory, it was almost as beautiful as my race in Barcelona.”