After the head-scratcher of Bahrain, Badger has had no such trouble choosing this week’s prize Pekingese. Ably assisted by some brilliant strategy calls, not to mention super impressive, double stacking pit stops, our latest Top Dog victor delivered a fire cracking performance that was definitely more sweet than sour.

So which of our feisty mongrels wins the ultimate takeaway from China? Lick
the stamp and send the trophy to…

…DANIEL RICCIARDO

Image: Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Media

No fortune cookie in all of China could have predicted a win for Danny Ric. His victory was the very definition of a Shanghai surprise. He made it into the qualifying session by the skin of those ever-smiling teeth, thanks to a last-gasp power unit fix by his miracle-working mechanics. Daniel remained super cool on his sole timed lap to drag his cold tyres into the second session. That was enough to get him in the game, ultimately qualifying a creditable sixth.

RED BULL IN CHINA TOP

But as Daniel has been saying all season, the Red Bull is heaps better in race trim. This was the race which proved that point. Things started pretty quietly and Ricciardo was barely mentioned in the first half of the race. It was team-mate Max Verstappen who was grabbing all the attention with his ‘take no prisoners’ overtakes on the likes of Hamilton and Raikkonen. (Shame Max got a little too feisty later on. More Boy Blunder than Wonder!).

Dan’s fortunes suddenly changed with a timely safety car on lap 30. And boy, did he take his Red Bull by both horns?! Max and Dan were perfectly positioned to dive into the pits – bravo to the whole team for their strategic and mechanical brilliance all weekend – for fresh tyres and a chance to go on the attack against the red and silver cars ahead. Ricciardo is a sublime overtaker and wasted no time in picking off his victims.

First up was Kimi with a relatively straightforward slipstream pass. Up to 5th, thanks very much. Two laps later, when Verstappen got tangled up with Hamilton, Ricciardo sneaked by his Dutch team-mate to gain another position. Don’t mind if I do!

The Australian had the fire in his belly now – and I moved a little closer to the edge of my seat. Could he really win this race from 6th on the grid? And be the first Australian to triumph in China? Of course, he could.

Next for the Daniel treatment was reigning champ, Lewis Hamilton. Granted, Lewis didn’t stand much of a chance with his ailing tyres (why, oh why, didn’t the team pit him under the safety car?) but Ricciardo’s pass was spectacular nonetheless. He threw his car down the inside from about a mile back, out braking the master of late out braking to move into a podium position. Nice one!

DAMN, DAN’S GOOD!

But why stop there? Dan sniffed a victory and soon dispatched Vettel before saving his very best manoeuvre for race leader Valtteri Bottas. Ricciardo catapulted down the inside of Turn 14, coming within a Honey Badger’s eyelash of hitting the Finn. Once I’d removed the hands from my eyes, I was delighted to see the battling Aussie was leading the race. The adrenaline was pumping now and he proceeded to bang in purple lap times, leaving his rivals wondering what the hell happened. What a man!

He looked visibly emotional on the podium and no wonder, after the highs and lows of the weekend. Dan is always a joy to watch on the podium and he duly drank from the shoey, grinning all the while. What’s more, he has managed to bag his second Top Dog accolade in only three races. Great job, Danny Ric. Loving your work!

Which of our plucky pooches can stop Dan from bagging a Top Dog hat-trick in Baku? Find out with Badger in a couple of weeks as we follow all the action in Azerbaijan.

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