An elated Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth in the Italian Grand Prix on Monday morning (AEST) after Renault finally found some pace to match it with the top cars.
Making the most of Monza’s lower downforce that benefits the Renault package, Ricciardo started fifth and after a shaky start when he slipped to sixth was able to make the most of Sebastian Vettel’s travails in his Ferrari, while also passing and then holding off his teammate Nico Hulkenberg.
Out in front Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc held off the Mercedes of, first, Lewis Hamilton and then Valtteri Bottas to win his second grand prix after last week’s breakthrough at Spa.
Hamilton had challenged the young Frenchman for much of the first part of the race, but could not quite find the pace to overtake before his tyres gave up the chase.
Bottas then moved into second with ten laps to go, but also could not match the Ferrari, sending the Italian crowd into raptures.
It was Ricciardo’s best finish for Renault since joining the team from Red Bull this season.
“We deserved that today.,’ the Australian said in a team statement. “It matches my best ever result here in Monza and to do it with Renault is great.
“I saw the battles happening at the front and I thought there could be a big opportunity to score strong points. I’m really happy for myself and also for the team.
“To get the team’s best result since returning to Formula 1 in fourth and fifth at a power circuit really complements Renault and their hard work. The race pace was really good and it’s a nice reward for the team.
The result is long overdue this year; I’m very satisfied now!”
Renault’s team principal Cyril Abiteboul said the result showed that the team was on the right track after a sluggish start to the season.
“Today’s result is not only the best combined result for the team since its re-entry to Formula 1, but also a demonstration after Montréal and Spa the clear progress of the team and in particular on the power unit side that has been so openly criticised in the past.
“It is a demonstration that everything is so fluid with a competitive package. It is also an invitation to repeat these types of emotions, when our season has been far from a smooth ride so far.
“Our drivers have shown what they can do with a competitive car. They have been remarkable all the way through including in tricky situations.”