After so much promise and success in his time at Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo’s last race with the Woking outfit ended – like much of 2018 – in frustration.
The Australian said he felt “helpless” as his dreams of a fairy tale podium finish slipped away in the desert night at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
After leading the race for 15 laps the Australian, who will race with Renault next season, was forced to pit on lap 34 which saw him return to the track in fifth position.
He was able to overtake a faltering Valtteri Bottas but was unable to make up ground on the top three of world champion Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen.
“I’m alright, it wasn’t the most exciting race,” Riccardo said afterwards.
“It was fun (leading) but (pitting late) just put me out of reach or the leaders.
“I don’t know if we had any other options. Obviously we could have pitted early and kept track position. It’s always hard to know (the best strategy).
“I don’t think anyone thought (the tyres would last to the end). Lewis pitted really early and (probably) didn’t think he would last so strongly to the end.”
Finding himself stuck behind Verstappen with laps running out the 29-year-old said he “felt kind of helpless at the end there”.
“I couldn’t really do too much. The pace advantage originally was strong but that fell away quite quickly. We probably weren’t quick enough.
“I was a bit lonely on the last few laps. I couldn’t do much more. Obviously third and fourth was great for the team, it’s solid.
We close this chapter now. Thanks to Red Bull, I would have loved to drink out of my shoe but who knows? There are still a few hours to go yet.”
Earlier Ricciardo’s new Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg crashed out after flipping on the opening lap following contact with Haas’ Romain Grosjean
Ricciardo was up to third on the ninth lap following Kimi Raikkonen’s exit due to power loss and Hamilton pitting early.
When Vettel and Bottas also chose to pit on lap 17 Ricciardo went into the lead for the 100th time in his 100th and final race with Red Bull.
As the rain and lighting swirled around the Yas Marina circuit the Monaco resident clearly enjoyed his time at the top of the field, running on ultrasoft tyres he built his lead almost to seven seconds.
But his tyres began to degrade on lap 27 reducing his lead over Hamilton to just three seconds.
He finally pitted on lap 34 and changed to supersoft, returning to the track in fifth spot, eight seconds behind Verstappen.
Hamilton’s 11th win of the season saw him finish 88 points clear of Vettel in the driver standings with Ricciardo in sixth.
The Briton celebrated his win with donuts at the finish line, joined in the revalry by the retiring former world champion Fernando Alonso.
Earlier Hamilton had posted an amusing video in which the Hollywood star Will Smith had tied him to a chair in an attempt to race in the world champ’s place.
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) November 25, 2018
Mercedes claimed the Constructor’s championship ahead of Ferrari with Red Bull in third.