Monaco, baby! It’s the one they all want to win. And if lady luck is smiling, they wouldn’t mind getting their paws on Top Dog either!

Our little mongrels have raced around the streets of Monte Carlo for another year, but which canine conquered the casino? Who came up trumps in this week’s Top Dog stakes? Cash in those chips and count your winnings…

…DANIEL RICCIARDO

Image: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool (apt name!)

Go on. Admit it. You thought Daniel was a shoey-in, didn’t you? After dominating proceedings in the Principality in every practice section, then knocking the socks off the opposition in qualifying, you’d have bet the house on him taking his first Monaco victory. To everyone’s delight, he did. But boy, did he have to work for it!

It all started smoothly enough with Dan dashing off the starting grid like a honey badger after a lizard. He’d had blinding pace all weekend long and race day was no different. Sebastian and Lewis chased as best they could, but the odds of catching the Red Bull were not looking too clever.

On a track where overtaking is pretty much impossible (my least favourite phrase in F1), most drivers would be banking on a single pit-stop to see them through. Translation – manage your tyres, people (second least favourite phrase!).

Lewis rolled the dice with a super early stop on Lap 12. Vettel followed suit on Lap 16 with race leader Ricciardo doing likewise one lap later. The top three were all now on the ultra-soft spec tyre and had a very, VERY long way to go to reach the chequered flag. Would the leading pack make it to the finish without having to stop again?

Graining ‘n’ complaining

It was looking a bit touch and go at times. Lewis moaned and groaned on the radio several times about his tyres graining. Daniel took a more measured approach, checking with his engineer how his teammate was faring on the ultrasoft to predict what kind of pace he might expect later in the race.

Always an intelligent racer, Dan was reading the race, understanding tyre wear and pondering his next move with consummate calm. At this point, he was holding all the cards. Things were looking sweet for the lovable Aussie to wipe out that painful memory of 2016 when a dead cert win was snatched away after a calamitous pit-stop.

And then came the radio call. “I’m losing power.” At which point, I lost my sh*t! Out poured the expletives, worse than Lance Stroll in one of his strops. Daniel’s Red Bull was suffering from an energy recovery glitch which was slowing him down by two seconds a lap.  He was on Lap 28. Out of 78. Further pleas to his race engineer painted an even grimmer picture. “Will it get better?” asked Dan. “Negative.”  I honestly thought he’d had his chips.

I am always scrupulously fair in picking Top Dog, but heck, who didn’t want to see Daniel win this one after such a stellar weekend? He so deserved a victory after the crushing blow of 2016. Ricciardo’s chances of winning were now in the lap of the racing gods. Oh, and his supreme driving talent.

Underpowered, overjoyed 

Where others might have let negativity take hold, Daniel managed to keep astonishing composure. He stayed focused as Sebastian Vettel loomed ever closer. He calmly asked the pitwall if there was anything he could do to alleviate the problem. No histrionics, (watch and learn, Lance), no drama, just calm professionalism.

At one point, I did wonder if Vettel had his poker face on and was just waiting to pounce in the closing laps. He hounded him a little, but had no answer in the end and couldn’t find a way past. Normally, I dislike tracks where you can’t overtake. Today, I didn’t care.

The race may have been unspectacular overall, but Daniel absolutely deserved the win. I have no idea how he managed to do it – and nor did his team. It was a superhuman performance from a truly super human.

Lady luck may have smiled after all, but of course, the biggest smile came from Dan himself. Redemption. Jubilation. Newey drinking from the shoey. And a third Top Dog award for Mr Ricciardo. Happy, happy days!

It’s a full house for Daniel in Monaco with pole position, the race win and Top Dog.  Can he take that momentum to Montreal? Follow Badger for all our news, views and musings in the pre-race build up.  

Or better still, join us LIVE at a special Canadian GP screening in Leeds!  

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