Ricciardo saviour emerges in nightmare

DANIEL Ricciardo was left completely shattered by his Mexican Grand Prix retirement — but one closer look at the year’s third-last race uncovers a huge source of hope for the out-of-luck Australian.

The 29-year-old declared he was “done” with his 2018 Red Bull after a clutch failure robbed him of a podium finish behind teammate Max Verstappen on Monday morning (AEDT).

With emotions still running high after the race, Ricciardo declared he didn’t even see the point of showing up for the final two grands prix of the year and offered his car to his 2019 successor Pierre Gasly.

Sky Sports Formula 1 guru Martin Brundle summed up the sad end to Ricciardo’s Red Bull career as “heartbreaking”.

“What a heartbreaking conclusion to his Red Bull career this is for Daniel Ricciardo.” he said.

“The Australian was absolutely superb in securing a surprise pole and though he was outperformed by his teammate in the race, Ricciardo certainly deserved a podium. He arguably even deserved second place.

“It’s no wonder Ricciardo was so furious after the race.”

Ricciardo’s outburst was in the eyes of some commentators a stroppy over-reaction, Red Bull team principle Christian Horner actually delivered an incredible admission which gives Ricciardo legitimate reason for wanting to begin his Renault career immediately.

Horner admitted after the race that his team’s unforeseen pace throughout the weekend was all the result of an improved performance from the team’s Renault-supplied power units.

He said the Renault engine was on the same level as rivals Mercedes and Ferrari throughout the Mexican Grand Prix.

It showed in the early practice pace of Ricciardo and Verstappen and again when Red Bull locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying.

Daniel Ricciardo was 10 laps away from a podium finish.Source:AFP

Renault pair Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz also threatened to challenge Ferrari and Mercedes in qualifying before qualifying as the clear leaders of the grid’s middle third, qualifying seventh and eighth respectively.

GHorner has been locked in a battle of words with his Renault engine supplier after a year of poor reliability and ongoing performance shortcomings compared to Mercedes and Ferrari.

But the Red Bull boss has now conceded Renault

“Credit where credit’s due,” Horner said, according to autosport.

“Renault have provided us with an engine this weekend in these conditions that is competitive with our opponents.

“That’s enabled us to go head-to-head, lock out the front row of the grid and win the grand prix in a dominant fashion. Theoretically we should have had a one-two here.

“The altitude of this circuit does constrain some of our rivals and it puts Renault into a window where they are competitive.

Max Verstappen couldn’t fault the Renault engine this weekend.Source:AFP

“Which is why we put an awful lot of focus into this race in taking the penalties to get another B-Spec into the pool, to have for this weekend.”

Ricciardo has suffered eighth retirements this year — the most on the 2018 grid — but Renault performance in the unique conditions of Mexico shows there is hope the Aussie won’t be bogged down in the middle of the pack for the entirety of his two-year deal with Renault.

Meanwhile, Horner has moved to play down Ricciardo’s post-race outburst, following reports the Aussie has quit the team with two races still to run this year.

“He just had an immensely frustrating afternoon,” Horner said, according to Skysports.com

“You can understand his frustration and hope that this dark cloud that’s following around lifts for the final two races.”

Ricciardo was running second before a clutch failure, which Horner believes was similar to the one race-winner Max Verstappen had in Mexico practice.

“It’s gutting not just for him but the whole team, because we were looking at potentially a one-two finish which has enormous value to us,” added Horner.

“So it feels a bittersweet victory. Fantastic for Max to have driven an outstanding race, an absolutely outstanding race, but I’m pretty confident Daniel that would have been able to hold off Sebastian over those remaining laps.”

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