Daniel Ricciardo’s difficult first season with Renault took another turn for the worse in Monaco after a strategy error left the Australian ruing yet another missed opportunity.
Lewis Hamilton came home first in an enthralling battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Hamilton holding off the charging youngster despite severely degraded tyres.
But Ricciardo was never in the contest despite a bright start to the race, finishing a disappointing ninth on his favourite track.
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Ricciardo qualified seventh fastest — his best result for the season — and started one place better on the grid after a penalty to Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly.
Hopes were high that the Australian could outperform the struggling Renault car on the track where he has achieved his greatest success, including raising the trophy in last year’s edition.
But those hopes soon faded, after an early safety car threw the race into chaos on lap 11.
Ricciardo was running in fifth, having gained a place in a frenetic start, before Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc slammed into the barriers at his home race and was forced to retire, bringing out the safety car.
The four leading drivers pitted, as did Ricciardo. Unfortunately, the four cars trailing Ricciardo — Carlos Sainz (sixth), Daniil Kvyat (seventh), Alex Albon (eighth) and Romain Grosjean (10th) — all opted to stay out on the track.
When Ricciardo re-emerged behind those rivals, his race was effectively over on a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult.
The sole good news in a nightmare day for Renault’s smiling assassin was a time penalty to Grosjean of team Haas, which lifted Ricciardo into ninth.
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“We have to figure it out,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports when asked if his result was because of bad luck or bad management. “I got caught in… as soon as they (Renault) said ‘box’ I got no time to react or react differently but obviously it wasn’t the right call.
“I’ll settle and we’ll sort it out as a team what we can do better.
“We both (Ricciardo and Hulkenberg) came in and just handed everyone else a position. It’s a shame.
“We had a great start … had a good turn one and got into fifth and that was really our place so it’s a shame. We could have had a big result today.”
Speaking to the Renault website, Ricciardo added: “It was a very frustrating race, to be honest. We definitely could have done better and got a great result as we had all the cards in our hand.
“We’ll look at what happened and address it for future races.”