Don’t for a moment think Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton handed Daniel Ricciardo the Italian GP win, Damon Hill saying he won that on “merit”.
After a confusing start to his McLaren career, Ricciardo by his own admission taking one step forward followed by two steps back, the Aussie announced at Monza that the sandbags were off, and what a way to ditch them.
Qualifying second on the grid, his first front row starting position with McLaren, he vowed to attack pole-sitter Max Verstappen at the start and did, out-dragging him to the first corner.
Ricciardo kept the Red Bull driver at bay and perhaps it was the frustration of that which played a role in Verstappen’s crash with Lewis Hamilton.
With the title protagonists out of the way, McLaren raced to a convincing 1-2 with Ricciardo leading home Lando Norris.
Hill is adamant it was not that title rivals’ crash that handed Ricciardo the win, it was a “proper race win”, not a gift.
“I think they probably would have [still won],” the 1996 World Champion told the F1 Nation podcast.
“Don’t forget they [Hamilton and Verstappen] tripped over themselves, they both had very slow pit-stops, and Max’s was catastrophically slow.
“But they were struggling to make grounds on the McLarens who actually had the pace.
“I think that they could have pulled it off all the way to the end, because at the end they were really racing against what was left of the field, and they managed to hold their own.
“I genuinely think that was a proper race win.
“They were there on merit, and they won on merit, and their pace was there.”
Winning as a team. 🧡 pic.twitter.com/BjXYAGrpPp
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) September 15, 2021
While Sunday’s win was Ricciardo’s first since 2018, it had been an even longer wait for McLaren.
The Woking team last stood on the top step of the podium in 2012 while the team had not scored a 1-2 since 2010.
Hill continued: “I was there for the celebrations afterwards. Obviously, it’s a long time since McLaren have had a race win, let alone have a 1-2.
“Seeing [the team] so happy, that sort of summed up the weekend really.
“There were so many elements to the race, having the sprint in it as well, including the sweetness of McLaren winning, and the sourness of Mercedes and Red Bull and Max and Lewis clashing, so [there were] ups and downs.”
McLaren’s 1-2 saw the Woking team retake third in the Constructors’ Championship, 13.5 points ahead of Ferrari with eight races remaining.
Planet F1 verdict