Daniel Ricciardo proved he is Formula 1’s “master conjurer” with victory at the Chinese GP, according to Monday’s newspapers.
The Australian claimed his sixth F1 victory after surging through the field from sixth to first in the space of nine laps, pulling off sublime overtakes on Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas along the way.
Ricciardo had been on the brink of starting at the back of the grid after an engine failure in Practice Three, while all his F1 wins have come from starting outside of the top three.
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“Daniel Ricciardo is the master conjurer who comes from next to nowhere to win races,” Jonathan McEvoy wrote in the Daily Mail.
Daniel Ricciardo demonstrates his overtaking ability as he passes Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas at the Chinese GP
“From sixth, fourth, fifth, fourth, 10th and sixth. And, in the case of his victory in China, nearly from the very back of the grid.
“His weekend was just 45 seconds from pointlessness when his mechanics completed one of the fastest engine changes imaginable to get him out just in time to take part in qualifying. Otherwise he would have started from the back row.
“Then it was a mixture of a brilliant strategy call and his surgically precise passing that did the rest.”
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The Guardian’s Giles Richards said Ricciardo’s overtakes on the two Mercedes and Ferraris would have sent another calling card to those teams, with the 28-year-old’s present deal at Red Bull expiring at the end of the season.
“No driver, it seems, is going to have an easy ride in Formula 1 this season,” he wrote.
“For Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who won the race, it was the climax of an emotional and challenging two weeks.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was ecstatic after claiming his first win of the season at the Chinese GP
“Hamilton fell with a superb piece of late braking into the hairpin, Vettel on the back straight and then Bottas with a dive up the inside of turn four that took the breath away.
“Ricciardo was magnificent and, out of contract at the end of this year, presented a potent reminder of his talent to Ferrari and Mercedes, who both potentially have seats open next season.”
‘Mercedes are not improving’
While Red Bull and Ricciardo surged on Sunday, it was a difficult weekend for world champions Mercedes as they were way off challenging for pole on Saturday, while Hamilton was unable to match his rivals’ pace in the race.
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And The Times’ Rebecca Clancy said the reigning world champions appear unable to improve their W09 the same way Ferrari and Red Bull have strengthened their cars.
“Of concern to the team, who have won every drivers’ and constructors’ championship since the introduction of the hybrid engine in 2014, is that the car’s performance does not appear to be improving,” she wrote.
“The Silver Arrows are renowned for their ability to develop a car throughout the season, keeping ahead of their rivals. But a visibly tired Hamilton admitted that at this early stage in the season, that did not seem to be the case.
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“For Hamilton it has been going in the wrong direction since pre-season testing in Barcelona. There, he looked ominously fast. With two four-time world champions lining up on the grid for the first time in Formula One history, most experts were backing the Briton to hit five before [Sebastian] Vettel, with many predicting that he would do so with races to spare.
“Mercedes have not shown that dominance since. With regulations mostly stable this season in terms of changes to the car designs, Ferrari appear to have not only closed the gap to their rivals, but started to create one of their own.”
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