Daniel Ricciardo is “curious” – rather than apprehensive – to see how his Renault handles itself around the Monaco circuit after growing accustomed to having such a receptive Red Bull in the principality.
The Australian has traditionally been one of the favourites going into the Monaco weekend, famously winning there last year after, most infamously, being robbed of his 2016 victory after an atrocious pitstop while leading.
He also finished third twice – making it four podium finishes in total – as well as two pole positions, but he will have to get used to battling further back again this year.
However, while Ricciardo accepts it will be far more difficult with Renault, he believes Monaco is a driver’s track, where the man in the cockpit can make far more of a difference than usual.
“I’m actually really curious to go to Monaco, I’m curious to see how it all feels,” he said. “I’m excited to go back there because I’ve always loved it.
“I think of Kubica putting it on P2 a few years ago, Maldonado, he was always a bit of a Monaco beast at getting the car at the time a bit further up.
“I’m definitely optimistic that if I can drive the track the way I want to drive it then I can get the car further up than maybe it might be on a normal track. Whether further up means the top six or top five, we’ll see. I’m excited.”
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where both Renaults failed to finish, is seen as a small indicator of how cars will perform in Monaco, but Ricciardo insists it is all about confidence this weekend.
“To be honest, not really,” he added when asked about Baku’s influence.
“I think we run quite low downforce and even a bit stiffer around Baku. Monaco is quite unique, but I think the biggest thing is confidence.
“On Thursday, all I’ll want to do is get out of myself to be confident with the car and have the confidence to tackle the kerbs and brake where I want to brake. I think, if I can get that, then I’ll be able to do something.”
After starting from pole for the 70-lap race, then-effective race leader Whincup copped a drive-through penalty over his decision to pass the Safety Car after it incorrectly picked up his #88 ZB Commodore as the actual leader.
There were some positives to come from the race, with career-best finishes falling the way of Todd Hazelwood (fifth) and Simona De Silvestro (seventh). Scott Pye also finished sixth, while Mark Winterbottom, Richie Stanaway and James Golding filled positions eight through 10.
Regardless, the end result left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, with fans demonstrating their anger with the Safety Car procedure on social media.
After starting on the front row for the first time since 2011, Holdsworth (#5 The Bottle-O Racing Mustang) couldn’t hide his fury over the “complete and utter stuff up” that left him 15th at race’s end.
“I don’t know what else to say,” Holdsworth said.
“The boys and Sammy [Scaffidi, race engineer] did a great job and gave me a great car, we put it on the front row, and we have nothing to show for it.
“We finally had a real good chance to take home some silverware and something like that takes it away from us. I have no words.”
Waters (#6 Monster Energy Mustang) went one step further, suggesting the race result should be annulled.
“I had a really good race car, was just trucking around, we would have been on for a podium, but obviously race control managed to screw that one up royally,” Waters said.
“It’s an embarrassment that a championship can do that and classify it as full points.
“So as far as I’m concerned I want an explanation from the powers that be, and I think that race should be zero points.”
Mostert (#55 Supercheap Auto Racing Mustang) was a beneficiary after moving from seventh to third, but said his podium should have fallen the way of his teammate.
“This is probably bittersweet, I don’t deserve this trophy today, this is all for Lee Holdsworth,” Mostert said.
“What happened in the race just shouldn’t happen and he deserves this podium more than us, he was in a better spot, so it’s a shame.
“I’m lost for words because this is for Lee Holdsworth, this is his trophy.”
Marc Marquez may have been the winner at Misano, but Petronas Yamaha SRT rookie sensation Fabio Quartararo was the standout — and proved his status as the next big thing.
While he failed to claim his maiden MotoGP victory on Sunday, 20-year-old Quartararo demonstrated his mettle on the biggest stage as he held off seven-time world champion Marquez until the final lap in the San Marino MotoGP.
The pace Quartararo produced on race day shouldn’t have come as a surprise, with the Yamaha package proving the class of the field all weekend.
However, the Frenchman’s execution under pressure — and ability to make Marquez work harder than ever for victory — was the key storyline to emerge from the thrilling race.
As was predicted, it was Marquez versus the Yamahas — except it was Quartararo that provided the sole consistent challenge, and one that went for the entire race.
Quartararo didn’t put a foot wrong in the lead, with Marquez’s race smarts being pushed to the absolute limit before the definitive final lap.
It was a defining day for the sport, with Quartararo proving to himself — and the rest of us — that he can fight and overtake the indomitable Marquez.
Quartararo beamed after taking his fourth MotoGP podium, dominating works Yamaha riders Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi in the process.
“It’s not only the best moment of my career, but of my life,” Quartararo said after the race.
“When you have a seven-time world champion behind you every lap and he overtakes you on the first corner, you overtake him back at corner four … I was so happy to have a fight with him.
“I think we managed the tyre in a really good way, the left side of the tyre was a lot more critical than him, but on the right side we did quite well so step by step we are learning and this is really good for us.
“I think one of my mechanics was always putting me ‘0.2 Marquez, 0.2 Marquez’ but I think my crew chief said ‘stop putting Marquez, he knows he’s behind’ and he stopped.
“I knew that [Marquez] would try something. But we never know with Marc, he can overtake and pull away because I really don’t know if he saved his tyre. The good thing is that I overtook him back.
“This gives me a lot of confidence going home to say ‘he’s a seven-time world champion, but we can overtake him’.”
Final-lap misses at Austria and Silverstone were fresh in Marquez’s mind, as well as the previous day’s qualifying run-in with Rossi.
Defeat at Misano wouldn’t have harmed his title chances, but it would have been a frustration nonetheless.
The victory helped Marquez to a 93-point lead, and there was delight in a seventh win of the season. However, a humble Marquez praised the rookie, and expects Quartararo to mount a title challenge next season and beyond.
“Fabio today showed to all of us, I already knew it, but he showed that he has the potential, the talent, the bike and the team to fight for a championship next year,” Marquez said.
“I believe from now until the end of the season he will be a tough contender and he will win some races.
“We will try to avoid it but I predict next year he will be a tough contender for the championship.
“Fabio today is the winner or the best rider in the race, as he led all of the race.”