Milton Keynes, England - Daniel Ricciardo's Belgian GP win after the latest incident between Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton shows that Red Bull is still in with a chance in the F1 championship
Mercedes is in damage control mode after the latest escalation of the rivalry between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, and the team is nervously looking over its shoulder.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo had the last laugh after the brief second-lap collision of the two Mercedes drivers as the Australian went on to win the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.
It was his second win in a row, third overall, and the 50th in total for the team he joined this year from sister outfit Toro Rosso.
“It feels a bit surreal, but another win is very cool, very cool,” Ricciardo said.
Red Bull has ruled the sport in the past years with four constructors' titles and four on the drivers' side from Sebastian Vettel.
The German is now struggling after sweeping rule changes in the sport, but Ricciardo is keeping the Red Bull flag flying, the only man apart from Rosberg and Hamilton to top a podium in the 12 races so far, and their main challenger for the world title in a season utterly dominated by the silver arrows.
Rosberg tops the drivers' list with 220 points from Hamilton (191) and Ricciardo (156), and Mercedes also have a big lead in the constructors' list over Red Bull, 411 to 254.
But with seven races left (and double points in the Abu Dhabi season-ender), Mercedes are taking nothing for granted, especially as they can not be 100 percent sure that their drivers will now put personal interests below team interest after the latest incident.
“It is clear that we need to strengthen our focus on securing the constructors' championship by delivering the potential of both cars in the next races,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said.
Wolff said the collision “ultimately cost us a one-two finish” as Red Bull made up some ground from Ricciardo's win and Vettel's fifth place.
Ricciardo vowed at the post-race news conference he will fight until the end.
“If I'm within 50 coming into Abu Dhabi then yeah, but there's still a few races to go. While it's still mathematically possible, yeah, we'll keep fighting. Today was a big day for that,” he said.
Sunday's result, as well as his wins in Canada and Hungary, show that Ricciardo is ready to pounce on any Mercedes weakness, as Red Bull remain inferior to their rivals in general if nothing out of the ordinary happens.
“You know everyone was saying we didn't really have a chance around here, but I think we had some really good pace today and surprised ourselves,” Ricciardo said.
The 25-year-old is being hailed as the next big thing in F1, and team principal Christian Horner praised “a phenomenal performance to get our 50th win.”
While his first two wins came in the closing stages, Ricciardo found himself in front in the early stages and had to bring the car back home from there.
“It was difficult staying out at the end of the race. When you're the leader as well you always feel like you're the most vulnerable when it comes to a pit stop or not,” Ricciardo said.
“There's been a lot of good things about the win today, obviously the last two came from a more aggressive style of race, but today was more calculated and it was nice to win under different circumstances.”
Ricciardo added that things could be even better in upcoming races because some circuits suit them even better than Spa.
“To come and steal some points on a circuit where let's say we weren't supposed to is nice but I think what's important, looking ahead, is to capitalise on the circuits that we should be strong on and if we can take maximum points, let's say, at a couple of those then it's never over,” he said.
“If we can collect maximum points around here, you know it gives us a bit more hope for the circuits that are going to come later in the season: Singapore, Suzuka, just a couple to mention. Obviously it's great. We're really motivated right now.”