Some scintillating performances, but did anyone deliver the full monty on the streets of Monte Carlo? Read on to discover the latest worthy recipient of Badger’s Top Dog award.
As can often be the way with the Monaco Grand Prix, it was a tad processional. The ominous combination of wider cars on narrow streets mixed with pesky ‘dirty air’ do not make great ingredients for on-track overtaking. And so, we didn’t get any. Nada. Instead, it was left to the strategy boffins to figure out the best way of getting their drivers into clean air and move up the order from their starting positions.
It is tricky to earmark any stand-out drives in these strategic, long game affairs. A flurry of retirements after the safety car saw a few potential Top Dogs fall by the wayside. Kvyat, Perez, Vandoorne and even Lance Stroll were contenders at various points. Sebastian Vettel’s victory was certainly worthy of Top Dog honours, but in the end, Badger has chosen Mr Honey Badger himself…
(he’s clearly very happy with being Top Dog)
Daniel is always supreme around the streets of the principality; he was on course for a guaranteed win in 2016 only for the Red Bull team to drop the ball on strategy. The Australian was bemoaning the team’s strategic calls once again after qualifying, aggrieved at not securing a higher grid slot in a car he felt had the real capability to fight up front with the big boys.
As the race unfolded, Daniel had the pace to stay in close quarters with the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull teammate Verstappen, giving himself options on strategy. It was clear the top teams were hedging their bets on when was the best moment to pit. Ricciardo came up trumps courtesy of some blisteringly quick laps during the middle stint, just before his pit stop on Lap 39. Thanks to this, he managed to get the jump on both Bottas and Verstappen who had gambled on slightly earlier stops. Unleashed into clean air, Daniel drove the socks off his Red Bull and started reeling in Raikkonen up ahead.
Things almost unravelled for him after the safety car was deployed on Lap 60. All the drivers struggled to get their tyres back into the optimum temperature window following the safety car stint, likening the feeling to driving on ice. Daniel had to contend with a very feisty Bottas and Verstappen hot on his gearbox as the safety car peeled off. He momentarily lost control as he tried to judge the grip level on cold, unpredictable tyres and duly clipped the barrier. Thanks to some razor sharp reflexes, Ricciardo managed to hold the car and avoid any major damage. A heart-stopping moment.
In a race that rewarded patience, careful tyre management (dull as that may be) and the ability to push hard at key moments, Daniel did everything he needed to do to take his well-deserved place on the third step of the coveted Monaco podium. It was a pleasure to see him smile as he held the trophy aloft. Fingers crossed he can be a contender for more podiums – and Top Dog accolades – as the season progresses.