Daniel Ricciardo says it was his speed at the restarts and ability to seize opportunities that put him in position to win Sunday’s race in Azerbaijan, singling out his daring three-car pass on lap 24 as the decisive move.
Ricciardo started tenth in Baku after a crash in qualifying, but dropped to 17th early on after pitting on lap 5 to have debris removed from his brake ducts. He steadily climbed the order thereafter, with a notable double pass on Marcus Ericsson and Carlos Sainz into Turn 1 on lap 10 followed by an incredible three-car overtake 15 laps later, following the final safety car re-start.
“Every re-start I was able to make positions and make it happen, and that last one was really important,” Ricciardo told UK broadcasters Channel 4.
“I think there was [Lance] Stroll, [Felipe] Massa, [Nico] Hulkenberg and me, all kind of nearly four wide, and I managed to get into third. That was, in a way, the winning move.”
Having moved into second when Lewis Hamilton pitted to have his loose headrest secured, Ricciardo assumed the lead of the race on lap 34 when Sebastian Vettel came in to serve his 10-second stop/go penalty.
“I think I was pretty fortunate,” said the Australian, who now has five career wins.
“I’ve only had a few victories but I think pretty much all of them have come under pretty crazy circumstances or the races have been far from dull. Obviously all of them are special. [Baku] was just crazy.
"We haven’t been necessarily the quickest car on track or all weekend [but] after my crash in qualifying I said ‘be there and capitalise on opportunities’ and I certainly capitalised on all the re-starts where I was able to gain at least one position if not more.
“It was fun to be in the battle for the most part and towards the end, obviously once I got the lead it was just trying to keep the laps I could. We knew we weren’t setting probably the quickest times on track but I knew if I kept that rhythm it was enough to win.”
Ricciardo also acknowledged the latest package of developments to his RB13, which included an upgraded Renault power unit, as being both crucial to his success and a good sign for the future.
"I think this weekend we certainly we looked pretty good in the speed traps and as I mentioned on re-starts I was always moving forward," he added.
"There were all different types of power units in front of me on several re-starts and we were able to – if not pass them, hang with them. Obviously we had a few little updates this weekend and it seems to have helped so yeah, it’s positive, it’s positive.”
With his haul of 25 points, Ricciardo moved up to fourth in the drivers’ standings, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who failed to score.