Monza, Italy - Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is set to collect a grid penalty for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix for the second consecutive year because of engine changes.
“I’ve done some of my best overtaking moves here," he said at Monza, "and I plan on doing plenty more this week as it looks likely that I will be taking some engine penalties. It’s obviously not ideal but Monza is a power track and one that we haven’t been hugely strong at in recent years. It does mean plenty of action and fun for me in the race though.”
Ricciardo, who will join Renault at the end of the 2018 season, finished fourth at Monza in 2017 after qualifying third but starting 16th on the grid after engine and gearbox penalties were applied. He was named Driver of the Day after also setting the fastest lap.
“It won’t be boring if I have to do the same again this year,” he said.
The 29-year-old Australian, who has Italian rootsm, has won twice this season, in China and Monaco, but retired from last Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix and is sixth in the championship behind team-mate Max Verstappen.
Drivers are penalised if they exceed their engine allocations for the season and Red Bull is set to do that for strategic reasons this weekend by opting for an upgrade that provider Renault has made available for those who want it. Red Bull would rather take the hit at high-speed Monza, a flat-out track where overtaking is easier, than at the Singapore street circuit that follows and where the team expects to be more competitive.
Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas bridled at the suggestion last month that he was a “wingman” for Mercedes team-mate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton, but the Finn may soon find he has no choice in the matter. Hamilton is now 87 points ahead of his fourth-placed team mate - a tally equivalent to three-and-a-half race wins - with only eight rounds of the campaign remaining.
Asked, after Vettel won Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix with Hamilton second, whether it was now time for Bottas to play a supporting role, with Ferrari on the rise and the Italian team firmly focused on Sebastian Vettel ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff hesitated.
“I hate to do that," he said. "It’s completely against my racing instinct and we try to be always very neutral to both drivers and we haven’t done it yet.”
Vettel and Hamilton each have five victories this season while their Finnish team-mates have had to make do with regular podium appearances.
Hamilton is 17 points ahead of Vettel but that advantage is in danger of being whittled down in the coming races, with Ferrari enjoying a speed advantage at Monza and fancying its chances for Singapore.
Wolff called Bottas a “sensational wingman” after holding off the Ferraris while Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix in July, a description that stung the unsmiling Finn.
“First of all, wingman hurts,” he said, while recognising that the points gap was big. Bottas finished fourth in Belgium and now has 144 points to Hamilton’s 231. Raikkonen, who retired on Sunday, has 146 - 68 less than Vettel, whose number one status is unquestioned.