Austrian Grand Prix – Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo’s hopes of challenging for the World Championship this year were struck with a huge blow as a cracked exhaust forced him to retire in Austria.
Red Bull looked set to deliver a 1-2 at their home race at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday as both Max Verstappen & Daniel Ricciardo, along with the Ferraris, capitalised on Mercedes throwing away their early lead. Valtteri Bottas’ retirement from P2 caused the Virtual Safety Car to come out. While Red Bull & Ferrari both brought their drivers in for their planned only stops, including stacking their drivers, Mercedes left Lewis Hamilton out. Forced to make his stop when the others were at full racing speed, Hamilton fell down the order.
This left Ricciardo running P2 behind Verstappen although started to suffer from tyre blistering that left him vulnerable to attack from the Ferraris, after passing Raikkonen quite easily earlier in the race: “I’m obviously disappointed with how the day went. At one stage it was looking like a one-two, but in all honesty as soon as we put the softs on it didn’t feel like it gave me much. Even though we were able to get Kimi, I didn’t feel like I was able to pull away and then I saw the tyre was getting torn apart.”
Just past the halfway mark, it became obvious that Ricciardo’s tyres were too badly damaged to even dream of making the chequered flag. He pitted again for the SuperSoft and, while his pace stabilised, any chance of fighting back against the Ferraris was negated due to the red cars not suffering from the same tyre problems as the Red Bulls. Ending up ahead of Lewis Hamilton after the Mercedes driver was also forced to stop again due to tyre issues, Ricciardo slowed and was forced to retire with a cracked exhaust that saw him lose power and position to Hamilton before he pulled off the track. “We had to pit and that put us out of contention for the podium. Then we had what I think was a broken exhaust which put me out of the race. I could feel something was wrong down the back straight before the last sector, so I mentioned it and then tried to do a procedure but the call came for me to stop.”
It was a great shame not to have Daniel up on the podium as well, after running for many laps in P2, but then his rear tyre started to overheat which caused a second pit stop. Shortly after that we began to see an exhaust crack that was causing gearbox damage, forcing his retirement. Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing
With Ricciardo’s race falling apart, it was left to teammate Max Verstappen to salvage some pride for the team at their home event. The Dutch driver had got ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen through a brave, albeit slightly cheeky, pass on the opening lap and, despite coming under serious pressure from the Finn towards the end of the race, held on to take the lead. Ricciardo, despite his disappointment and not having much cause to celebrate on his 29th birthday, acknowledged that the day had, overall, been a success for the team:
“I’m happy for Red Bull today, the team, the brand, the people, and happy for Max who has so many fans here. I saw Mr Mateschitz earlier and I can imagine what he is feeling right now. Obviously it’s not my day but from the team’s point of view, for the Austrians and for Max it’s a big day for them, so I’m happy that some part of the team will be celebrating today. I don’t think I’ll celebrate too much for my birthday (today) but you know, maybe a cognac to get over these sniffles!”
Ricciardo now falls to 50 points behind Sebastian Vettel and to P4 in the Driver’s Championship, just three points clear of Verstappen.