Daniel Ricciardo was cruising in P2 with 14 laps remaining in the Tuscan GP, but the Aussie driver’s podium pursuit was cruelly denied.
Daniel Ricciardo was cruising in P2 with 14 laps remaining in the Tuscan GP, but the Aussie driver’s podium pursuit was cruelly denied.

‘Gutted’: Daniel Ricciardo’s cruel denial

"Let's finish what we started."

Daniel Ricciardo's stern words of determination would have sent a chill through the Renault team garage.

With 14 laps remaining in the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello Circuit, the Australian F1 driver was eyeing a maiden podium position with Renault.

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Following the second red flag of the race, Ricciardo had steamed past Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas into P2 - and only British superstar Lewis Hamilton was ahead of him.

Unfortunately, his rivals' cars proved their superiority in the closing stages. Ricciardo was overtaken by Bottas and Red Bull's Alexander Albon, and finished the event in fourth.

It was an agonising conclusion to an enthralling contest, which featured several high-speed crashes - only 12 cars crossed the finish line, with eight drivers forced to retire.

As a consolation prize, Ricciardo was voted Driver of the Day by the fans watching from home, but the Aussie will know he missed the perfect opportunity to sink a shoey on the podium.

The inaugural Tuscan Grand Prix had a tumultuous start - two 2020 grand prix winners flew off the track after a collision on the opening lap's first corner.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen and AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly were done for the day, and Ricciardo found himself in sixth position as the yellow flag emerged.

But the damage was far from over - six laps later, a mammoth collision at the back of the pack resulted in a red flag and an additional five cars out of the race.

After proceedings eventually got back underway from a standing start, Ricciardo managed to overtake Racing Point's Sergio Perez on the 15th lap and jump into fifth position.

The West Australian soon caught up to Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc - who was struggling on the straights - and suddenly found himself in P4. Only the two Mercedes drivers and Racing Point's Lance Stroll were ahead of him.

Despite racing just 1.1 seconds behind third-placed Stroll, Ricciardo was forced to pit on the 28th lap and temporarily slipped back down to eighth.

But he suddenly found himself in the podium positions when his rivals went for their pit stops, with Stroll emerging behind the Renault driver.

However, Stroll and Albon were both less than six seconds behind the Australian, and were quickly gaining ground.

"It's not done and dusted for the final podium by any means," former F1 driver Martin Brundle muttered on Sky Sports.

 

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Earlier this year, Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul promised he would get a tattoo if Ricciardo secured a podium in the 2020 season.

With the Australian cruising in P3, Sky Sports commentator David Croft cheekily said: "I'm just Googling tattoo parlours near Mugello … I've found half a dozen."

On the 42nd lap, Racing Point's Lance Stroll spun off the track after receiving a puncture, but thankfully emerged unscathed from the scary incident.

Yet another reg flag was shown, and the drivers once again filed into their respective garages.

Despite Ricciardo's impressive overtake after the third standing start, the cars of Bottas and Albon proved too powerful in the finals stages of the race, breaking the heart of every Australian F1 fan.

Afterwards, Ricciardo admitted he was gutted to finish agonisingly close to his first podium finish since 2018.

"I'm smiling on the outside, but obviously there is pain on the inside," Ricciardo told Sky Sports.

"We know we had a great race; strategy was awesome, we undercut Stroll, starts were great, put ourselves there.

"With low fuel and soft tyres, (Albon's) car came alive a little more in the last sector … and then he broke my DRS really quickly and I didn't have an answer.

"We had top-five pace all race, so it's encouraging. It was certainly not a dull race."

Abiteboul had nothing but praise for Ricciardo, who climbs to seventh position on the drivers' standings with 53 points.

"He's been absolutely fantastic; he's been brilliant," Abiteboul said.

"(A podium) would have been a fantastic reward for him and for the team, but it will come.

"We feel that he's building in confidence with the team and with the car."

Attention now shifts to the Russian Grand Prix, which will take place in a fortnight on Sunday, September 27th.

 

Originally published as 'Gutted': Daniel Ricciardo's cruel denial


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