7 Key Moments That Won Daniel Ricciardo the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix
Daniel Ricciardo kept his head while many around him were losing theirs to win the Formula One 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix. It was the second win of what is turning out to be an exceptional debut season with Red Bull.
But it was far from a straightforward victory.
Multiple factors combined to hand Ricciardo the chance to win, and he seized the opportunity with both hands.
Here, we examine those seven critical moments.
Data used throughout is taken from the FIA's official race timing pages.
1. The Start
Ricciardo started from fourth on the grid but had a poor getaway. By the end of the first lap he was sixth, having been passed by Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.
Nico Rosberg streaked off into the distance, with Sebastian Vettel chasing Valtteri Bottas, and Alonso close behind.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo was losing ground. Button was not as quick as the cars ahead, and the gap between him and the leading four cars was growing every lap.
The Australian couldn't have known it at the time, but this delay proved instrumental in securing the win.
2. The 1st Safety Car and 1st Stop
By the end of his seventh lap, Marcus Ericsson was 53 seconds—more than half a lap—behind race leader Rosberg. The Mercedes man had a nine-second-plus cushion to the Bottas-Vettel-Alonso scrap behind him, and Ricciardo was 17 seconds behind in sixth.
Felipe Massa, who becomes notable shortly, was nearly 24 seconds down.
Ericsson crashed heavily at Turn 3 on his eighth lap. As soon as the teams saw the incident, they knew the safety car would be out—but the timing and positioning of the crash meant the leading four cars had passed the pit entrance before their teams could relay the instruction to stop.
The timing for these four was terrible. The safety car emerged alongside the medical car, directly in front of Rosberg as he reached the end of the pit straight at the start of his ninth lap.
He, along with Bottas, Vettel and Alonso, had to do a whole lap behind the safety car before they could pit.
But Ricciardo, having been delayed by Button, had not passed the pit entrance. He got the call to stop just in time and switched to slicks, emerging onto a clear track.
Before they reach the queue behind the safety car, all drivers have to slow down and drive to a "delta"—a slower time they are advised of which is relative to their previous laps.
It's slow, but significantly quicker than the pace of the safety car.
So despite it containing the bulk of his pit stop, Ricciardo's Lap 9 was substantially quicker than those of the leading four cars.
They all pitted at the end of Lap 9, and Ricciardo—who had jumped Button in the pits—took the lead. Rosberg emerged behind Massa—a net loss of at least 25 seconds.
3. Rosberg Gets Stuck Behind Jean-Eric Vergne, Ricciardo Pulls Away
Button, who had put fresh intermediates on when he stopped, passed Ricciardo at the restart—but McLaren had got it wrong. One lap later Button returned to the pits for slicks, and Ricciardo once more led the race.
His main challenger at the time was still Rosberg. Fourth at the restart, the German had more than enough pace in his Mercedes to beat Ricciardo's Red Bull to the chequered flag.
But he had a little problem.
Rosberg was passed at the restart by Kevin Magnussen's intermediate-shorn McLaren. Like Button, the Dane began to struggle on the rapidly drying track and Rosberg attempted to re-pass at the start of the next lap.
He got it wrong on the damp track, which opened the door for Jean-Eric Vergne to sneak by into Turn 2. It proved to be the second big turning point of the race.
Though he tried on several occasions, Rosberg could not find a way through. He, along with Vettel and Hamilton, lost time to Ricciardo. Alonso was suffering similarly in third. He was reeling in Ricciardo before getting cooped up behind Massa.
In clean air, Ricciardo extended his lead until Lap 23.
Then the safety car came out again.
4. The 2nd Safety Car and 2nd Stop
Sergio Perez crashed into the pit wall at the end of his 22nd lap, bringing out a second safety car. This time, the leaders were not picked up immediately.
Ricciardo had opened up enough of a cushion to be able to pit without losing too many places.
His rivals had not—pitting then might have dropped them a long way down the order, so nearly all of them stayed out.
The Australian re-emerged in sixth. One lap after the safety car returned to the pits, he was just under four seconds behind leader Alonso. In between were Vergne, Rosberg, Vettel and Hamilton.
Ricciardo had nearly a pit stop in hand on all five.
5. Everyone Else Stops
Vergne, second behind Alonso, was still acting as the cork in the bottle. Ricciardo had fresh rubber but couldn't use it, so he sat at the back of the queue behind fifth-placed Hamilton going slower than he needed to.
This helped him make the tyres last, allowing him to have a later final stop and more pace in the closing laps.
First to blink was Rosberg. The plan was for him to do two short stints on the soft tyres. He had a slow stop and emerged around 20 seconds—a pit stop—behind Ricciardo. But he had fresher tyres and a quicker car. At this stage, he could still have won.
But he hit traffic. Five laps after his stop, the gap to Ricciardo had grown to 23 seconds.
Meanwhile, Alonso had been pulling away at the front, but any hopes he had of building an unassailable lead were crushed when Vergne pitted.
Ricciardo and Hamilton began reeling him in at over a second a lap.
The Ferrari pitted on Lap 38, coming out nearly 18 seconds behind Ricciardo. He would never beat the Red Bull if he stopped again—he was going to the end on this set of tyres.
Hamilton was in a lap later, going onto medium-compound tyres. A slow stop saw him exit the pits 21 seconds behind Ricciardo but ahead of Rosberg; he would also be going to the end.
Ricciardo led, with one stop left.
6. Lewis Hamilton Doesn't Play Ball, Mercedes Botch Their Strategies
Even at this stage, one of the two Mercedes' could have won. Rosberg, free of traffic, began eating into Ricciardo's lead. A gap which had been 24 seconds at the end of Lap 41 was just 20 seconds by Lap 44.
But then he came up behind team-mate Hamilton. The Brit was also catching Ricciardo as the Red Bull driver managed his soft tyres, but not as quickly.
The team asked Hamilton to let Rosberg through. He refused.
Rosberg's charge was over. In the next eight laps he gained only two seconds on Ricciardo. In clean air, it would have been close to 10.
Hindsight tells us Hamilton should have been put onto the same strategy as Rosberg. Had he been, the likely result would have been a Mercedes one-two.
7. Race-Winning Overtakes
Ricciardo managed to make his soft tyres last 31 laps, pitting with 15 to go. He emerged a little under 10 seconds behind race leader Alonso, with Hamilton and Rosberg in between.
One lap later Rosberg pitted, setting up the finale.
Alonso led on ageing soft tyres and would not be stopping again. Hamilton was second on ageing mediums and also would not be stopping. Ricciardo was on fresh softs, as was Rosberg—but the Mercedes was 18 seconds behind the Red Bull.
Hamilton caught Alonso but could not get by—the durability of the mediums turned out to be worse than the softs, and his tyres were shot to pieces. He didn't have enough grip in the final corner to be able to benefit from DRS (drag-reduction system) down the main straight.
Ricciardo rapidly closed up and spent several laps immediately behind the two leaders.
Further back, Rosberg was catching the trio at up to three seconds per lap. Ricciardo had to act, and on Lap 67 he did—utilising superior traction out of Turn 1, he brilliantly went around the outside of Hamilton at Turn 2.
On the following lap Ricciardo outbraked Alonso down the inside into Turn 1 to take the lead. He pulled away thereafter to win by more than five seconds.
Ricciardo was a worthy winner after a magnificent display. He and Red Bull called every major decision correctly, and the two overtaking moves at the end were sublime.
It would be wrong to say luck did not play its part. The first safety car might as well have had a ribbon wrapped around it, with the words "To Daniel" on a gift tag flapping around on the boot.
But even at that stage he wasn't the favourite. What made the difference is that while others—notably Rosberg and Mercedes—failed to get the job done and the strategy right, Ricciardo did not.
And being able to make the most of good fortune is a hallmark of champions.
Ricciardo is now just 71 points behind the world championship leader. Just as importantly, he's 43 points clear of team-mate Vettel.
Would anyone have predicted that before the season got underway?
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