Daniel Ricciardo was “smiling” all the way to third place at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, saying he was “surprised” Racing Point pitted Sergio Perez.
A late Safety Car in Sunday’s grand prix, brought out for Max Verstappen’s off, caused a few headaches for the teams’ strategists as they weighed up pitting versus track position.
Racing Point decided to pit Perez, who had been running third with Verstappen’s DNF. Renault left Ricciardo out.
While Ricciardo was elevated to third at the restart, Perez dropped down to sixth.
The Mexican driver, despite his fresher tyres, wasn’t able to attack the trio ahead of him – Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat and Charles Leclerc, none of whom had stopped.
Ricciardo held on for third, his second podium of the season.
“Two in three races,” said the Renault driver. “It’s pretty crazy.
“Obviously we were pretty settled in fifth [before Verstappen’s puncture], that was our pace today.
“Leclerc hung with me, but I felt like I was quick enough to kind of manage that gap to him.
“But Perez was quicker, he was the fourth best car today. But then obviously Max had the issue, and Perez pitted under the Safety Car. I was quite surprised with that.
“Obviously I was smiling about it, because I was like, ‘well that’s giving me third on track.’
“I knew hanging on with the hard [tyres] on the restart was going to be tricky, but I was more than happy to fight for it at the end, and track position is obviously very important around here.
“I think both myself and the team were very willing to keep me out on track.
“Obviously I wanted to go out fighting at the end, and if he came back through and passed us, so be it, that was the position we were in. So I felt it was definitely worth the risk, and it paid off.”
— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) November 1, 2020
Sunday’s result means Ricciardo is now sitting on 95 points, 10 ahead of Ferrari’s Leclerc in the battle for fourth in the Drivers’ Championship.