Daniel Ricciardo nearly delivered a first podium finish for Renault since its return to F1 in 2016 and with it a chance to carry out his tattoo bet with team boss Cyril Abiteboul.
Despite a sterling effort and brilliant performance, Ricciardo was left to settle with a strong fourth place after Red Bull’s Alex Albon swept by to snatch the final spot on the rostrum.
The Australian ultimately conceded he had ‘no answer’ to Albon’s superior pace but must come away from a hectic race pleased with a result that was definitely earned on merit.
Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo revealed he tried to exploit Alex Albon’s inexperience and nervousness in his bid to end his podium drought.
Ricciardo showed strong pace throughout the inaugural race at Mugello, running a comfortable third before a red flag with 14 laps remaining caused by Lance Stroll’s crash at the flat-out right-hander of Arrabbiata 2.
At the restart, the Australian soared past Valtteri Bottas for second but only managed to keep the Mercedes behind for one lap, before eventually falling behind Albon’s Red Bull a few laps later.
Even though Ricciardo felt his chance of his first podium for just over two years had gone at that point, he still held out hope of pressurising Albon into a mistake bearing in mind the British-Thai driver had yet to finish in the top three.
“I knew that maybe if I held onto him, maybe he would lose his tyres,” Ricciardo explained.
“Because he disposed of me pretty quickly, I was like ‘Alright, that’s probably done,’ but at the back of my mind, I was like ‘the kid’s never taken a podium before’.
“So if I can do anything I can to try and put the pressure on him and to force him to keep driving at a high pace, maybe something can happen.
“I saw a few times he put a wheel a little bit in the gravel out of five, maybe he was overdriving or getting nervous.
“The first five laps, he had too much pace for me to do anything. I think I was able to match him a few laps later, but even then I didn’t feel I was closing too much.”
Ricciardo spent much of the race ahead of Albon, who struggled for pace after dropping from fourth at the start, which left him dumbfounded as to his speed in the final stint.
“It was frustrating to see his pace,” he added. “I felt like the first stint and the second we were kind of matching, if not pulling away on the soft at the start of the race. I didn’t feel he had that pace and all of a sudden at the end, he had a big step on us.
“It was really the third sector he was quicker and that allowed him onto my tow to get DRS. That was the sector that mattered and that’s where he was really strong, through turn 12 and 15.
“It was frustrating because I was like ‘Where has this pace come from?’ It was what it was. We put ourselves in the best position, a bit like Monza, we just didn’t have it at the end for the podium.”
RICCIARDO ‘NO ANSWER’ TO ALBON’S SUPERIOR PACE RICCIARDO ‘NO ANSWER’ TO ALBON’S SUPERIOR PACE
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F1 2020 NEXT RACE
|Russia ||27 Sep|
|10h00 - 11h30||Free practice 1|
|14h00 - 15h30||Free practice 2|
|11h00 - 12h00||Free practice 3|
|14h00 - 15h00||Qualification|
|14h10 - 16h10||Race|