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F1 2021 | Russian Grand Prix


Daniel Ricciardo says he should have pitted for intermediate tyres even earlier than he did, as rain produced a chaotic finish to the Russian Grand Prix, costing McLaren dearly.

Ricciardo’s late-season resurgence continued in Sochi, with the Australian claiming fourth place in an eventful race.

It’s the 32-year-old’s third top-four finish in the last four races, including his drought-breaking win in Italy.

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A perfect start from fifth on the grid saw Ricciardo in fourth spot on the long run down to the first braking zone, but Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso were able to take advantage of the slipstream and pass the McLaren, while Lewis Hamilton also slipped by in turn three.

The Australian got the better of the seven-time champion two corners later, and dispatched Alonso later on the opening lap, leaving the McLaren in fifth place.

He was able to hold off Hamilton for the entire first stint, before a disastrous pitstop sent Ricciardo tumbling down the order, emerging in 14th spot.

A determined comeback saw Ricciardo running in sixth spot when the rains came in the closing stages. And while the weather cost his teammate Lando Norris the victory when the 21-year-old stayed out on slick tyres, the Australian switched to intermediates, allowing him to climb to fourth place at the finish.

Ricciardo pitted at the end of lap 48 in the 53 lap race, but felt he should have stopped ealier.

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“You know I’m asking (the) pit wall if the rain’s getting heavier because this part of the track was more or less dry, it was the far part which was wet,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports after the race.

“And we are the best reference for that, so I said, like Turn 5, Turn 7, I can’t keep it on the track anymore. So for me it was clear, I said I need to come in for the inter (tyres) because Turn 7 I went off nearly close to the wall.

“So it wasn’t even a question for me. I told the guys I need inter.

“At least for me today it was clear and actually in hindsight probably one lap earlier was even better. We still probably didn’t perfect it but it was still the right call.”

Had Ricciardo stopped a lap earlier he likely would have beaten Carlos Sainz to third.

The positive for Ricciardo and McLaren was the fact he held Hamilton at bay through the entire first stint, with the Mercedes driver not able to make a serious attempt at passing.

“It probably always looks more comfortable than it is,” Ricciardo laughed.

“It’s tough here, because it’s such a long run to Turn 1, so the launch was too good, at one point I had to lift, and then all the good work was undone.

“Maybe on another circuit that launch would have been more beneficial.”

McLaren are locked in a tight battle with Ferrari for third place in the constructors’ championship, currently holding a 17.5 point lead, but McLaren may rue the points that went begging from a potential Norris victory.

“The more I stand here and speak to you guys the more I understand that Lando’s race was a bit of a disaster at the end,” Ricciardo said.

“It could have been, by my understanding, a first or a second by the sound of it.

“I think there’s encouragement with performance, obviously there could have been more points today but we’ll keep looking at it.”

Ricciardo’s fourth place wasn’t the only success for Australia in Russia. Oscar Piastri took out the F2 race to extend his championship lead, while Jack Doohan won the final F3 event of the season to clinch second in the title race.

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