Daniel Ricciardo said winning the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday had provided a different sensation to his previous two victories in Formula One.
Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull Racing take advantage of Mercedes issues
The Australian’s successes in Canada and Hungary came through late passing moves, but he dominated in Spa-Francorchamps by inheriting the lead early on after Nico Rosberg had to pit early to change his front wing following his second lap collision with Mercedes-GP teammate Lewis Hamilton.
The Red Bull Racing driver survived a late charge from Rosberg to hold on for his second successive win and third in six races.
“It was definitely a bit different. When you lead the race, I guess, for that long it’s more about composure, just looking at your lap times, just trying to be as consistent as possible,” he said.
“Once I heard Rosberg came in for a third stop, we knew he was going to be quick at the end. I just had to try to keep the lap times up and keep it clean.”
Ricciardo had started in fifth and had run there in the early stages, but had moved up the order after passing both Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari and his teammate Sebastian Vettel, before benefiting from the problems for the Mercedes cars.
“We were able to get into the lead and then the pace was pretty good,” he said.
“We were happy with what we were doing and the consistency was there and we were making the tyres last. Yeah, it was just really up to me at the end to stay consistent and stay focused.”
Ricciardo closed to within 64 points of Rosberg in the championship race, but he remained realistic on his victory chances at the Italian Grand Prix on September 5.
“We’ll stay grounded,” he said. “Monza we know will be tricky again, but obviously the package we brought here was pretty racy, so, try and take something from here to Monza and then I think, as I said, Singapore and Suzuka will be pretty good for us.”
Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, acknowledged he had been surprised his team had won at the track for a third time in four years.
“This was supposed to be a damage limitation race,” he said. “We have managed to find a balance and Daniel has managed to find a confidence in the car that has managed to produce a good lap time.
“Ultimately, we benefited from the Mercedes’ little get together, but in like-for-like pace we were not far off them today.”
Valtteri Bottas, the Williams driver, claimed his fourth podium in five races, with third place, ahead of the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and the second Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.
The Finn has yet to win a race and he believes it will be difficult for him to achieve his first one this year.
“We definitely need to be lucky to achieve that,” he said. “Mercedes is really strong and even on a track like this Red Bull was really, really quick, we couldn’t really challenge Ricciardo, so we have still work to do but we are on the right way.”
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