If anyone can, Dan can
Inspired by the spirit of Jules Bianchi, Ricciardo gives it his all to unsettle the usual order in Budapest
To a man they rose in the Hungaroring’s grandstands to cheer the warrior they’d seen wield a broadsword in deance of his rivals and in furious, although ultimately vain, pursuit of victory.
They’d watched Daniel Ricciardo driving at his muscular, athletic best, using his RB11 as a weapon, no less, daring his peers to impede his progress, unafraid of a little ‘carbon kissing’ along the way.
He and Valtteri Bottas were the rst to get intimate, on lap 1 – coming together through T2 in a nudge rough enough to briey pitch the Red Bull into the air, though with no lasting damage. Then, much later, post-Safety Car and with Ricciardo on softs and Lewis, Nico and Seb ahead on mediums, there was more bish-bash-bosh.
Hamilton got it rst, understeering into Ricciardo as Perth’s nest grafted around the outside at T1, on lap 49, to take third. There was damage to the Red Bull’s side and oor, but the pass electried the masses and prompted grandstand rejoicing – a spontaneous, appreciative outburst for a man driving with his heart on the sleeve of his racesuit. Driving, as he’d later conde, in memory of Jules Bianchi, whose passing lent a poignant tone to the 30th edition of the Hungarian GP.
Watching Ricciardo scream out of Turn 5 in chase of Rosberg as the laps ticked from 50s to 60s, was to witness primal driving. The menace of his pursuit was so erce it made Rosberg’s capitulation inevitable, given Mercedes’ bafing second-stop choice of harder Pirelli mediums. On grippier softs, Rosberg and Merc would themselves have been hunters, chasing down Vettel who was scampering away into the lead. Instead, they became prey.
How, though, would Ricciardo make his move? His RB11 might have been the fastest thing on the ’ring in the closing quarter, but it was always 6mph slower down the straight than a W06 with a stonking PU106B Hybrid under the hood.
Ricciardo was in no mood to be detained by such footling details, however. He’d won here against the odds a year ago with a Mercedeshumbling virtuoso display and he fancied more of the same. So he did the only thing he could: he used the wonderfully pliable chassis balance achieved this day to wax Rosberg’s tail through Turn 14 on lap 63, gain a better exit and be just within range at the end of the straight to take a dive into T1.
“I was close, although not close enough,” he said, “but I’d decided that I was going to do something that lap, no matter what. It was late, for sure, but it was clean.”