DANIEL Ricciardo believes his stunning Chinese GP victory proves he would win a Formula 1 world title if given the right tools.
In a chaotic and action-packed finish in Shanghai, Ricciardo rose from sixth to the lead in less than 20 laps in an advance which included stunning overtakes on Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas.
For all his talent this was only Ricciardo’s sixth F1 win, his emergence coinciding with Red Bull’s post-2013 dip, but the Australian is desperate for more so he can maximise his talent and fight for championships.
“It’s a fun way to win for sure,” Ricciardo, out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season, told Sky F1. “I really feel like, just give me a chance to be in a title hunt and I really believe I’ll take it.
“I feel I can capitalise on opportunities and I guess today was a good example.”
Ricciardo was labelled the “race burglar” by Sky F1’s Martin Brundle following the race, with all six of his wins coming from lower than third on the grid.
The Australian took advantage of Max Verstappen’s eagerness when he tried going around the outside of Lewis Hamilton before veering off the track.
The following three overtakes were all down to his own skill and determination, displaying a late-braking masterclass and eventually finishing almost 10 seconds clear of closest challenger Bottas.
The jubilation came a week after Ricciardo’s early Bahrain GP retirement, and just 24 hours after he very nearly missed qualifying entirely due to an engine failure which would have left him starting at the back of the grid.
“We really thought we were going to miss qualifying start the race at the back,” Ricciardo explained. “This sport’s crazy, a week ago I was with my head down after two weeks and frustrated at the sport, frustrated at all the variables that are involved in the sport.
“Sometimes I question why I chose this sport because there’s so many other things sort of out of your control and it does get you down a lot.
“But that when you get a day like this, it’s worth 50 of those bad ones.”
RICCIARDO ON HIS FAVOURITE OVERTAKE
There were three defining passes as Ricciardo took the chequered flag in Shanghai, with Red Bull boss Christian Horner hailing the move on Hamilton as his driver came from so far back on the straight to take third.
But what one was Ricciardo’s favourite? There was only one contender.
“They’re all pretty sweet but until I got Valtteri I wasn’t getting excited about any of them,” he added.
“At that point I knew we had a car to win and I wasn’t going to be satisfied until I was in the lead. like the work wasn’t done.
“I was very composed through all of them but after Valtteri I got on the radio and got a bit giddy!”
WHAT DOES CHINA WIN DO FOR CONTRACT TALKS?
During the off-season, Ricciardo frequently claimed he would wait to see Red Bull’s performance at the start of the year before making a decision on his future, with both Mercedes and Ferrari expected to be keen on his services at the end of 2018.
But with the pecking order still so uncertain — reigning world champions Mercedes have yet to win a race this year — Ricciardo doesn’t expect contract talks to progress rapidly in the coming weeks.
And his China drive shouldn’t do any harm to his suitors’ interest, either.
“Obviously getting a win is nice, but I guess the plan was to try and hold off a little bit,” Ricciardo admitted.
“Today we had really strong pace in the second half of the race and I think once we get to Europe it will probably start to balance itself out. All three teams have had their moments so far this season.
“It’s interesting, it’s fun, and I don’t think today will hurt my position. It’s a good day.”