That’s Round 13 of the championship done and dusted on the historic straights and chicanes of the Italian Grand Prix. But who is Badger’s lucky 13th Top Dog of the year?  A soggy qualifying left us with a topsy-turvy grid, leaving the door open for an unusual suspect. Who gave us a bravura performance in front of the fanatical Tifosi?

It’s time to say ‘ciao’ to our Monza Top Dog…

…DANIEL RICCIARDO

Image: Red Bull Racing Media

Yep, the Honey Badger has come up trumps again. Having qualified a brilliant third in the wet, a fistful of engine penalties (don’t get me started on all that nonsense) saw Dan relegated to a P16 start come race day. If there’s one driver I never tire of watching hard charging through the field, it’s Danny Ric. Recovery drive a go-go – and boy, did he deliver! 

THE QUIET ASSASSIN

He started off quietly enough, slowly picking off the guys in front. No heroics just focused and precise execution of his phenomenal overtaking ability. His ‘dummy’ right-left pass on Sergio Perez was classic Ricciardo, as was his comment on the radio straight after.  

Informed that Felipe Massa was next up the road – and not exactly setting the timing sheets alight – Daniel could sniff another victim and made his feelings known with a tongue-in-cheek  “I like them vulnerable!”. That’s what I love about our Dan; he’s a true showman in and out of the cockpit with buckets of personality and the talent to back it up.

PODIUM PURSUIT

Meanwhile, back on track – and despite all the hard charging – he managed to keep his tyres in good shape until Lap 38. Thanks to a mega 2.2-second pit stop from the Red Bull crew, he set off like a heat seeking missile after the Prancing Horses.  

Ricciardo quickly dispensed with Kimi Raikkonen with a spectacular, brakes-a-locking move through the first chicane – and from about a mile back to boot. With one Ferrari down, he duly set off after Sebastian. Could he spoil Ferrari’s 70th birthday party and snag that last podium place? He certainly tried his damndest, banging out fastest lap after fastest lap in hot pursuit of a below pace Vettel.   

But he simply ran out of time. Cue huge sigh of relief from the Tifosi. A few more laps, and who knows? And just imagine what he might have achieved if he had started where he actually qualified? Still, it was another sparkling show from our awesome Aussie with an Italian name.

Bravo signore on another Top Dog award.  Enjoy!

Image: Red Bull Racing Media

DEPUTY DOGS

Special mention must go to former Top Dog winner, Lance Stroll and Force India’s Sebastian Ocon. Both were outstanding in wet qualifying and didn’t let the thrill of starting P2 and P3 go to their heads. It was a pleasure to watch these two young guns racing hard (sometimes with each other!), defending brilliantly (a thrilling last lap between Stroll and team-mate Felipe Massa) and generally showing the sport is in good shape for the future. Nice work, boys.   

Another round done, Lewis Hamilton has taken the championship lead for the first time in 2017 and Singapore is next. Could it be any more exciting? The smart money is on the Prancing Horse winning Singapore at a canter. But who will be the next Top Dog? Follow Badger for all the action in everyone’s favourite night race. Arrivederci!