ABU DHABI, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Daniel Ricciardo had hoped for one last celebratory ‘Shoey’ with Red Bull on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix podium on Sunday but, despite a long stint in the lead, his wish was not to be granted.
The Renault-bound Australian finished fourth in Formula One’s season-ender, one place behind team mate Max Verstappen, in his farewell to a team who have backed him since he was a teenager.
The sweaty race shoe that the smiling Australian has in the past filled with champagne to drink from, and forced on reluctant victims, remained out of sight.
“I would have loved a podium, so I can’t be ecstatic with fourth,” said Ricciardo after his 100th race for Red Bull in 150 career starts.
“I was a bit lonely in the last few laps. I couldn’t really do much more.
“We close this chapter now, so thanks to Red Bull and the whole Red Bull family. I would have loved to drink out of my shoe but (there’s) still a few hours to go...”
The partying, with or without drinks poured into footwear, was likely to go on into the night, followed by a return to Britain and then to Australia next month for some well-earned downtime.
Ricciardo said he would “close everything off” with Red Bull at their Milton Keynes factory next week and then spend some time at Renault getting to know his new team mates.
After that, he will fly back to Australia and switch off.
“I’m looking forward to going home and just talking to the sheep and the cows on the farm and not doing a whole lot for the first few days,” he said.
“They get me,” he added of the farm animals.
Ricciardo leaves Red Bull with seven race wins, including China and Monaco this year, 29 podiums and his status cemented as a fan favourite known for his near-permanent smile and thrilling overtakes.
“As a whole, the time here was good. Some obviously amazing memories and a lot of things I’m sure I will reflect on in a few hours,” he said.
Team principal Christian Horner paid tribute as the Australian crossed the line.
“Great drive today. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you in the team. All the podiums, all the high moments. We’re going to miss you,” he said.
“We wish you all the very, very best for the future and hold very fond the memories we have together. So enjoy this slow down lap.”
Horner told reporters later: “He’s been great. We’ve seen him grow from when he first arrived in Europe as a 16-year-old…100 races with us, seven victories and such a big character as well.
“It’s been a blast having him in the team.” (Writing by Alan Baldwin, additional reporting by Alexander Cornwell Editing by Ian Chadband)