Daniel Ricciardo ended a three-year win drought – and equally long wait for a celebratory ‘shoey’ on top of the podium – after claiming a sensational victory at the Italian Grand Prix as chaos unfolded behind him.
The Australian overtook Max Verstappen before the first corner of the race, and held onto the virtual lead for the entirety of the race to claim an eighth victory in Formula One and his first as a non-Red Bull driver.
It was McLaren’s first victory since the Brazil GP in 2012, some 3213 days ago, and teammate Lando Norris finishing second meant the outfit claimed a first one-two finish since the Canadian GP in 2010.
The duo celebrated with Ricciardo’s trademark ‘shoey’ on the podium, and they were joined by McLaren team boss Zak Brown.
Ricciardo also claimed an additional championship point for the fastest lap of the race, which he secured on the final lap before screaming into his team radio: “Yeah! We won! We did it! Yeah boys!”
He added: “Deep down I knew this was going to come, so thanks for having my back. And for anyone who thought I left. I never left, just moved aside for a while.”
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When he embraced his McLaren team in jubilant scenes in parc ferme, Ricciardo yelled: “F***ing come on!”
The race was marred by a massive crash between title contenders Max Verstappen of Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, in which Verstappen’s car was sent flying into the air and landed atop his rival.
Sergio Perez of Red Bull was third on the road but a five-second penalty for overtaking outside track limits saw him bumped off the podium, with the third place taken by Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes – who had started some 16 places further down the grid.
Ricciardo was forced to hold off his rivals on a number of safety car restarts, but drove flawlessly after claiming the lead on the very first corner of the race.
RACE CENTRE: Italian Grand Prix, timings, video
After starting on the front row of the grid, Ricciardo pipped Verstappen heading into the first corner. He was hounded by his former teammate Verstappen for the first 23 laps, before the Australian pitted to replace his medium tyres with a fresh set of the more durable hards.
Verstappen stayed out, only to immediately declare to his team: “My tyres are f***ed!”
The Dutchman pitted the following lap only to suffer a nightmare stop, with an 11.1 second pit stop dropping him down all the way down to tenth.
Ricciardo was fourth with the three drivers ahead of him – Hamilton, Leclerc and Perez – having not pitted.
Hamilton then pitted, and a slow four-second stop saw him emerge alongside Verstappen. But the pair crashed on the first chicane, as Verstappen’s car climbed atop Hamilton’s Mercedes – with the seven-time world champion only avoiding serious injury thanks to the ‘Halo’ device and rollover safety strut which protected his head from being crushed by his rival.
Hamilton said after the race that he had a sore neck but was relatively uninjured. “It landed on my head … but I’ll be okay.”
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was furious, saying: “Max had the momentum and Lewis gave him enough space in turn one but our opinion would be that he didn’t give him enough in turn two.
“Most important thing today is that the halo has done its job because it’s an awkward accident, thank god no one was hurt.”
Meanwhile, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Verstappen’s move was the equivalant of a “tactical foul” in football.
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Norris showed supreme bravery on the safety car restart, diving past the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc on the opening corner and moving into second. He would hold the position until the finish, having been told by the team not to attempt to overtake Ricciardo.
“Best for us where you are,” Norris was told with 12 laps remaining. It was also Norris’ best-ever F1 result.
There were a number of other incidents in a chaotic race. Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri failed to finish, while his teammate Yuki Tsunoda couldn’t even start after a mechanical issue.
Antonio Giovinazzi spun out on the opening lap, Esteban Ocon pushed Sebastian Vettel onto the grass, and Haas duo Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher also collided, retiring the former.
RICCIARDO AWESTRUCK AT ‘INSANE’ WIN
In his post-race interview, Ricciardo said: “Can I swear? I wanna swear! About (he gestured, mouthing a swear word) time.
“It was never guarantee we’d lead the whole race. I don’t think we had mega speed but it was enough to keep Max behind … To lead literally from start to finish, I don’t think any of us expected that.”
He said that on Friday he had a good feeling about the race weekend, saying: “I knew something good was to come.”
The Aussie joked that his poor performances so far this season came from a deliberate ‘sandbagging’ strategy: “I’ve just been a sand-bagging SOB (son of a b***h) all year. Third, fourth, fifth, you might as well just win! That’s what I did. The August break was good just to reset.”
But he was utterly incredulous at the result: “To not only win and get a one-two, it’s insane … This is for Team Papaya (a nickname of the McLaren unit given the team’s unique colour).”
Ricciardo also opened up on the adversity he’s faced this year, from losing his confidence to still being away from his family who he hasn’t seen in over a year.
“It’s easy to lose confidence and kind of lose your way but I think that’s just where perspective and everything comes to fruition and just knowing deep within yourself that it can happen and just never doubt yourself,” he said.
“If anything, I’ve enjoyed the adversity and the feelings that I’ve had internally because it’s kind of made me understand who I am a bit more as a person and a competitor. I definitely embraced it, but for sure there’s definitely been some low points.”
He added: “Then you have on top of that, like not seeing mum and dad for freaking over a year.
“I’m very close to family, I’m a very affectionate person and sometimes there’s nothing you want more than just a cuddle from mum and dad and a little pad on the back.
“That’s made the hard days harder but I think it also helped me get to this point.”
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schedule, how to watch, preview, news, Craig Lowndes debut, Fox Motorsport, time
It was the stunning Bathurst debut that almost never happened.
Back in 1994, a then 20-year-old Craig Lowndes took the motorsports world by storm.
Lowndes may now be a household name but at that point he was a relatively unknown prospect, tasked with challenging already established drivers John Bowe and Dick Johnson.
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If Holden Racing Team owner Tom Walkinshaw had the final call, Lowndes’ debut would have never happened.
For Walkinshaw, German Armin Hahne was preferred as the last-minute substitute alongside lead drive Brad Jones.
Yet when Rickard Rydell was a late withdrawal, former manager Jeff Grech got his way and had Lowndes earn his first opportunity at Bathurst.
It was on that day that a star was born and the Lowndes legend found its roots.
“I wasn’t meant to finish the race,” Lowndes said on Fox Motorsports’ ‘Lowndes at The Mountain’ with Jess Yates.
“It was always earmarked for Brad [Jones], he was the lead driver.
“I remember going to Bathurst, I’d only been there once in a production car so I’d never really driven a supercar around there at the time. I struggled.
“I think even Brad was even shaking his head thinking: ‘Why have they put this young kid in there with me’. This was actually for me when it all turned around.
“Peter Brock sat me down and talked me through a lap of Bathurst. From that moment on it all went from strength to strength for me. This was me jumping in and having the fight of my life in ultimately what kickstarted my career.”
Johnson and Bowe would end up winning the race, with the Lowndes finishing in second but it was not without a fight from the then-rookie challenger.
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“[The battle was] incredible,” Lowndes said.
“It was one of those moments where it goes down in history. To go toe-to-toe with John. I’d looked up to these guys, even Peter Brock, Dick Johnson, John Bowe, it was everyone and anyone there. The battle was immense.
“I was so nervous to make a mistake. Going across the top of the mountain it was just trying to pinpoint where Peter had told me to place the car, to flow the car, doing everything right. I started to focus on his [Bowe’s] lines and what he was doing.”
Lowndes struggled to recall much about his time on the podium or what exactly he said.
“I cannot remember a word,” he laughed.
He can remember one detail though.
“I was talking 100 miles an hour,” he said.
“I was so excited and at that point it really set my career up. But again, 12 months prior I was sitting at home waiting for an opportunity.”
There is just the one rookie who will get that opportunity this weekend – Tickford Racing’s Zak Best.
F1 news 2021, Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, results, drivers championship, race wins, next season, 2022, new rules
Sitting eighth in the drivers championship, 48 points behind his teammate and without a top-10 finish in four of his last five races is hardly how Daniel Ricciardo wanted his record to read with two races to go in his first season as a McLaren driver.
But that’s where he is, behind Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc – the two men who pipped him for the seat at Ferrari each time he has been looking to move teams – and behind Lando Norris, who is 10 years his junior and expected to play second fiddle to the Aussie this season.
With just the Saudi Arabian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix remaining, Norris holds an unassailable 14-6 head-to-head lead in races across the season, at one point holding a commanding 9-1 lead.
In qualifying, Norris has been nearly as dominant, this time holding a 12-8 head-to-head lead over Ricciardo, including a pole position. Norris also has four podiums to his name to Ricciardo’s one.
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In short, Ricciardo has been completely outdriven and outmanoeuvred by his junior teammate and is on his worst run of consecutive finishes since 2019 thanks to a series of car issues, culminating with a disappointing P12 in Qatar last weekend.
“We had a few things going on,” he said on Monday morning (AEDT). “So already from Lap 1, I had some fuel warnings on the dash which you don’t get on Lap 1, so I ignored it, because I thought okay, it’s just an error in the dash.
“But then quite early, I was told that you need to seriously start saving fuel. I saved quite a lot, like already what I thought was too much, and I was told it’s not enough, it’s not enough, to the point where we were… probably going two seconds a lap slower. And with that, tyres get cold, brakes get cold, so you lose even more ultimately.
“So I was kind of thinking, what’s the point of staying out, because obviously there’s an error and maybe we just messed up but we’re just cruising.
“It was painful and it’s just obviously something that’s gone wrong in the data or the calculations today and we were getting the wrong information.”
But if you can look past the numbers and the current frustration, this would have been Ricciardo’s favourite season since he left Red Bull, because it’s the first time he’s stood on the top step of the podium since his famous win in Monaco.
He ended McLaren’s long wait for a win and etched his name on the wall of history of one of F1’s most recognisable teams.
He was brilliant that weekend, finishing on the podium in the sprint race and being a contender throughout every practice and qualifying session. There was just an inevitability about him at Monza that weekend that something special was going to happen.
Ricciardo can still be that good and if there is one thing we have learned from his time with Renault, it’s that a poor and frustrating season is the perfect match to light the fire for the following year.
After a very average debut year where he only scored one top-five finish for the team now known as Alpine, he drove out of his skin in his second season, earning two podiums and seven top-five finishes.
“The winter can’t come soon enough for him to regroup and just work out for him how he’s going to, with McLaren, just unlock a bit more performance for himself,” nine-time race winner and fellow Aussie Mark Webber told AAP.
“You don’t forget how to drive quickly overnight but for whatever reason he hasn’t clicked at the moment.
“Daniel, when he does, we saw it, it’s in there and when he does he’s very, very special. McLaren would struggle to have someone better for the brand. He’s so good for the sport.
“He had a problem (in Qatar) with the car which would sort of amplify his issues.
“In a technical sport, it’s easy to get brought undone and people don’t understand the full scenario of what’s going on but by Daniel’s incredibly high standards – this is a race winner, this is a guy that he’s been on the middle step quite a few times and plenty of podiums – so he knows how to have success at that level.
“By his own admission, of course, it’s been a challenging year for him in this car. Hopefully, he can finish the year with some strong results.”
And while Ricciardo is off mentally regrouping, his McLaren team will be providing him with all of the tools to put his hunger to good use.
Both Ricciardo and Norris have had car troubles over the last three races, with the team being overtaken by Ferrari in the constructors championship after the two drivers could only muster four points between them in that period.
But that is arguably a good sign for the season to come, with McLaren clearly not delegating too many resources into resolving the current car’s issues.
While Mercedes and Red Bull are putting all of their efforts into the current title race where they are still battling for both the constructors and drivers championships, McLaren can afford to turn their attention to next season, when a whole new generation of F1 cars will debut.
It’s a clean slate for all of the teams, with F1 introducing stricter spending caps in order to level the playing field, and McLaren are able to steal a march on their rivals by beginning work on the 2022 car.
Through his own admission, it took Ricciardo a while to get to grips with the McLaren and once the training wheels were taken off, he won a race and finished fourth in the next before car problems kicked in and sparked his current downward spiral.
But he will be ready for next season and McLaren will have used the extra time to be as well prepared as any team on the grid.
McLaren and Ricciardo are unlikely to have to wait so long for another race win from here.
F1 news, Williams Racing team tributes, George Russell
Frank Williams, whose team dominated Formula One in the 1980s and 1990s, has died at the age of 79, the team announced on Monday morning (AEDT).
The Williams team won the F1 drivers’ title seven times and the constructors’ championship on nine occasions under Williams’ stewardship, although the most recent triumphs came in 1997.
The Englishman stepped down from the board of Williams Formula One in 2012 and his family ended 43 years of involvement in the team last year, following its sale to Dorilton Capital.
Williams had used a wheelchair since being injured in a car crash in France in 1986.
“The Williams Racing team is truly saddened by the passing of our founder Sir Frank Williams,” the team said in a statement.
“Sir Frank was a legend and icon of our sport. His passing marks the end of an era for our team and for the sport of Formula 1. He was one of a kind and a true pioneer.
“Despite considerable adversity in his life, he led our team to 16 world championships, making us one of the most successful teams in the history of the sport.”
Damon Hill, who won the 1996 world title with Williams, said Frank Williams would have an important place in F1 history.
“The only person I could compare him to is Enzo Ferrari. He loved Formula One and he loved racing. Anyone who runs a team would like to aspire to his achievements and to his record,” Hill told Sky Sports News.
Jean Todt, who was principal of the Ferrari team that grappled with Williams in the 1990s, tweeted that Frank Williams “leaves a lasting impression on the history of @F1”.
“He was a pioneer, an exceptional personality and an exemplary man,” said Todt, the former FIA president.
Formula 1 also issued a brief statement shared on their social media channels.
“We are filled with the most immense and deep sadness at the passing of Sir Frank Williams,” the statement read.
“His was a life driven by passion for motorsport; his legacy is immeasurable, and will be forever part of F1.
“To know him was an inspiration and privilege. He will be deeply, deeply missed.”
Current Williams driver George Russell paid his own tribute. “Today, we say goodbye to the man who defined our team,” he said on Twitter. “Sir Frank was such a genuinely wonderful human being and I’ll always remember the laughs we shared.
“He was more than a boss, he was a mentor and a friend to everybody who joined the Williams Racing family and so many others.” Formula One president Stefano Domenicali said Formula One had lost a “much-loved and respected member of the F1 family”.
“He was a true giant of our sport that overcame the most difficult of challenges in life and battled every day to win on and off the track,” he said.
In 1977, Frank Williams joined forces with innovative motor racing engineer Patrick Head to launch the Williams Formula One team.
Clay Regazzoni registered the team’s first grand prix win at Silverstone in 1979 and a year later Australian Alan Jones won the team’s first drivers’ title.
Keke Rosberg took the 1982 title, with five more captured in a golden period between 1987 and 1997, all after Williams’ ill-fated 1986 dash to catch a flight in France and the car crash that left him paralysed.
Williams steered Nelson Piquet to the following season’s title, with Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost following up in 1992 and 1993.
Ayrton Senna, who had won three world championships with McLaren, joined for the 1994 season, only to lose his life in a high-speed crash at Imola.
The last Williams driver to win a world championship was Canada’s Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.
The team’s nine constructors’ crowns place Williams second only to Ferrari in the all-time Formula One list. But the outfit has under-performed in recent years, consistently running at the back of the pack.
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