It all started so well for Daniel Ricciardo at the Monaco Grand Prix, but by the end of the day his bad luck at Renault had reached new lows.
Starting from a surprisingly strong sixth on the grid, the reigning Monaco champion launched up the outside of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas to snatch fifth position.
Ahead of him the big three: two Mercedes, a Red Bull and a Ferrari.
And that was about it.
By lap three Ricciardo was already almost five seconds behind the car in fourth, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. By lap five he was 11 seconds behind and holding up the rest of the field.
The plan appeared to be to take care of his tyres and hope for a safety car, but when that moment finally came on lap nine it resulted in the Australian’s race being run.
Indeed the only driver who had worse luck on the weekend was Ferrari’s Charles LeClerc, who had started from 16th after a team snafu in qualifying and shredded a tyre on a safety barrier while trying to push his way through the field.
Panicked, frustrated and desperate to get into the pits LeClerc ran the length of the circuit trailing rubber and smashing the underside of his car – the debris clean-up requiring a safety car.
Ricciardo and Magnussen immediately went to the pits, but when the cars behind them did not they found themselves back in 13th and 14th and trailing a slow McLaren and Alfa Romeo.
“It was a very frustrating race, to be honest,” said Ricciardo. “We definitely could have done better and got a great result as we had all the cards in our hand.
“Although we missed some points, the car was very good even though we couldn’t always use the speed we had. We’ll look at what happened and address it for future races.”
Magnussen’s team principal Guenther Steiner explained to Fox Sport that it was a risk that both drivers had to take.
“It was the only thing to do because we did not know who was following in afterwards,” he said.
Up front Lewis Hamilton ultimately held off all comers, despite having to be talked off the ledge by the Mercedes strategists throughout the race as his medium compound tyres went off.
He eventually made them last 67 laps when the expected lifespan of the Pirelli tyres is around 50.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished second, despite a penultimate lap lunge that saw him hit the back of Hamilton’s car.
Verstappen was dropped to fourth in the standings after a five-second time penalty was applied for an unsafe release in the pit lane on lap 11.
Vettel took second after driving a solid, if uneventful race, while Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was third.
It was an emotional win for Hamilton after the death of Mercedes’ insider and three-time world champion Niki Lauda.
“That was definitely the hardest race I think I’ve had,” Hamilton said.
“Nevertheless, I think I was fighting with the spirit of Niki … I was just trying to stay focused and trying and make him proud.”
Down the pack, Ricciardo had finally made his way back into ninth to claim two world championship points.
It wasn’t fifth and in with a chance, but in a year that started with a DNF (did not finish) in Melbourne it was at least something.
The Australian has eight points for the year and remains in 12th place.