As the tension and the adrenaline were lowering to normal levels after qualifying, the big smile of Daniel Ricciardo was seen for the very first since the bye to the Red Bull team last year.
There could have been plenty of reasons for celebrating already at Saturday night, if it wouldn’t have been a race weekend; not only the second-row placement for a Renault, like the old days when Alonso, Fisichella and Trulli were constantly to the ribs of the front runners. The biggest improvement was heard from the voice of the son of circuit dedicated driver: at the mics of Sky Sport F1, Jaques Villeneuve reported that from Bahrain until the Monaco weekend Viry-Chatillon engineers diminished the power of the Renault E-Tech 19 power unit; an issue with the connecting rods was the focus of the powertrain engineers for almost two entire months of work.
Despite being a street circuit with walls and chicanes, Montreal offered the first glimpse of speed comparison between the engine manufacturers: Daniel certainly had a big push as an ingredient of his qualifying winning mix:
I never thought I’d be so happy for a fourth place in qualifying; it feels like a pole position! It was so cool when they told me over the radio I was fourth. I’m really happy for the team today. This track is fun, I’ve always enjoyed it here. We seemed quick from the start of the day. Even yesterday we were fast, but we made further improvements and managed to put it all together for qualifying. We’ll see about tomorrow, the start could be interesting. For now, we’ll enjoy this moment as a fourth in qualifying is huge for us.
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Starting the race day on the Soft compound, at the start Daniel has shown a professional behaviour: a clean ride outside Verstappen and he retained the 4th position. The pit-stop arrived at the 9th lap, exiting just after the Norris retirement out the pits.
The Ricciardo-mode came out after Bottas pitted: with fresh rubber the Finn was well equipped for an easy overtake on #3; but the Aussie defended at his best the position for three laps (even raising the stewards’ limit on the moves before the last chicane). Some laps before the iconic Ricciardo trademark braking was used against the local runner Stroll in the same point.Additionally, Verstappen had an easy life due to the tyres at the end of their life: Ricciardo had nothing for containing the exuberant Dutch. The race ended up with the Renault couple running the remaining laps in 6th and 7th position, without being able to engage a battle; some rumours inside team revealed an angry Hulkenberg, stopped yet before he could have broken the DRS wall:
I did all I could out there and I’m happy with the end result. It’s the team’s first double points of the year and it’s a big one in sixth and seventh, and we can’t ask for anything more than that. There are definitely positive signs this weekend. We know the top teams are superior at this stage, but still, it was a lot of fun to battle Valtteri [Bottas] for a few laps out there. We’re realistic in our approach, but the team should be proud of this weekend. They have that drive and determination to push on now and that’s really encouraging.
Overall, a decent week for Ricciardo: the performance returning slowly in his hands and the team is gaining confidence that the work is going in the right direction. But to be lapped at two laps to go leave always a big mark on the driver’s mind…