MONACO (Reuters) - Daniel Ricciardo brought back memories of Formula One great Michael Schumacher in his prime on Sunday as the Australian nursed a wounded Red Bull to Monaco Grand Prix victory in the team’s 250th race.
Winning from pole position for the first time in his career, Ricciardo drove for nearly two thirds of the race — some 50 laps — with a car down on power due to problems that emerged on lap 28.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, last year’s race winner, finished second — easing off towards the finish to save the tyres — to cut Lewis Hamilton’s overall lead to 14 points after six of 21 rounds.
Hamilton, the reigning world champion, was third for Mercedes.
“You have done an amazing job today,” team boss Christian Horner said after Ricciardo took the chequered flag 7.3 seconds clear of Vettel for his second win of the season and seventh of his career.
“That is right up there with what Schumacher did in 1995 and this is payback for 2016.”
Ricciardo’s only previous pole had been in Monaco two years ago, when he lost out to Hamilton on strategy and finished runner-up. Schumacher won in Belgium in 1995 with a famously defensive drive on dry tyres in the wet.
“I had half the power it seemed and I felt like it was going to come to a stop,” said Ricciardo. “For a few seconds I just wanted to close my eyes and start crying.”
Ricciardo had made a clean start and, controlling the race, looked as much of a nailed-on certainty for victory as ever exists on Monaco’s treacherous metal-fenced streets.
And then he reported a loss of power.
“OK mate, we can see what’s going on,” his race engineer replied after a pause. “You just need to keep it smooth, keep focussed.”
“Will it get better?” enquired the Australian. “Negative,” came the reply.
From then on, Ricciardo — with Vettel looming in his rearview mirrors — was a model of consistency on a track where overtaking is a challenge for even the greatest of talents. For lap after lap, he kept the gap.
“Absolutely amazing, I don’t know how you did that, Daniel,” said engineer Simon Rennie.
“We had problems. We had a lot to deal with during the race. I felt a loss of power and I thought the race was done. I got home just using six gears,” Ricciardo told reporters later. “Thanks to the team. We got it back. I’m stoked.
“From two years ago I feel we got some redemption now, we can put 2016 behind us,” he added.
Vettel said it had been a tricky race and “Daniel had the answer at all times.”
A largely processional race — “boring” according to Hamilton, who said he would “have been asleep on the couch” if watching at home — saw a virtual safety car needed in the closing laps.
That was triggered by Sauber’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc, the first local F1 driver in 24 years to compete on his home streets, having piled into the back of New Zealander Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso at the tunnel exit.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth, ahead of fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas for Mercedes.
French driver Esteban Ocon took his Force India to sixth place, ahead of compatriot Pierre Gasly in a Toro Rosso and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Ricciardo’s Dutch team mate Max Verstappen, who started last after crashing in Saturday’s final practice, stayed out of trouble and stood out for the right reasons with impressive overtakes to finish ninth.
Verstappen also set a race lap record with a one minute 14.260 second effort on lap 60, improving on Mexican Sergio Perez’s 2017 best of 1:14.820.
Ricciardo had already smashed the all-time track record repeatedly in practice before qualifying in 1:10.810.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz took the final point for Renault.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge and Neil Robinson