DANIEL Ricciardo scored his first podium finish of the year with third place in the Spanish Grand Prix, but the Perth driver did have luck on his side.
Lewis Hamilton won the 66-lap race at Catalunya for Mercedes, finishing four seconds ahead of the Ferrari of Sebastien Vettel, with Ricciardo’s Red Bull more than a minute behind.
But the three on the podium were the only ones to finish on the same lap; the rest of the original 20-car field was one or two laps behind.
The season’s most exciting grand prix so far started dramatically at the first corner when Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes and Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari touched wheels with the Ferrari then sideswiping the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, which was overtaking on the outside.
The impact broke the front suspension of both cars.
Ricciardo had a great start, slotting into fourth place behind early leader Sebastien Vettel (Ferrari) and the Mercedes of Hamilton and Bottas.
Vettel built up a strong lead, but solid pit strategy by Mercedes, a safety car and a scarily spectacular piece of on-track aggression by Hamilton let him overtake Vettel on lap 46 and take the win.
Teammate Bottas retired his Mercedes with a blown engine, letting the lone Red Bull inherit third place.
It was a lonely race for Ricciardo, who was unable to get near the front runners and had no challengers.
One of the best drives was that of young German-Mauritian Pascal Wehrlein in the Sauber.
It was probably the slowest car on the track, but Wehrlein stopped for just one tyre change, rather than the two or three-change strategy of the other teams, and his bright blue car crossed the line in seventh place.
However, a pit lane infringement cost him five second penalty and he was relegated to eighth.
Danish driver Kevin Magnussen seemed certain of finishing 10th, to give the Haas team the final championship point, but he retired with a puncture on the last lap, and teammate Romain Grosjean took 10th.
Ricciardo’s famous smile was evident as he enjoyed the unexpected trip to the podium.
“It feels good,” he said.
“I had a bit of fortune with Bottas stopping, but it’s nice to be up on the podium.”
The Force India duo of Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon were fourth and fifth, Nico Hülkenberg took his Renault to sixth, then came Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso), Pascal Wehrlein in the Sauber-Ferrari, Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) and Romain Grosjean in the Haas.
Next race is the Monaco Grand Prix on May 28.