Daniel Ricciardo admits he was “smiling” when Sergio Perez pitted and handed him third place in the Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
The Renault driver had been running in fifth place behind the Mexican when Max Verstappen’s tyre failure and spin triggered a safety car with 13 laps of the Imola race left to run.
The Racing Point team took the opportunity to pit Perez for new tyres, but Ricciardo stayed out, as did Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Alex Albon immediately behind him.
The Australian thus sat in third place, behind Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
After the restart he was able to hang onto the position, despite strong pressure from a charging Daniil Kvyat for, who was on fresh tyres in his AlphaTauri, and had got ahead of Perez.
It was Ricciardo’s second third place finish in three races following the Eifel GP, where the result famously triggered team boss Cyril Abiteboul’s promise to get a tattoo.
“Two in three races,” said Ricciardo. “It’s pretty crazy. Obviously we were pretty settled in fifth [before Verstappen’s puncture], that was our pace today. Leclerc hung with me, but I felt like I was quick enough to kind of manage that gap to him.
“But Perez was quicker, he was the fourth best car today. But then obviously Max had the issue, and Perez pitted under the safety car. I was quite surprised with that.
“Obviously I was smiling about it, because I was like, ‘well that’s giving me third on track.’
“I knew hanging on with the hard [tyres] on the restart was going to be tricky, but I was more than happy to fight for it at the end, and track position is obviously very important around here. I think both myself and the team were very willing to keep me out on track.
“Obviously I wanted to go out fighting at the end, and if he came back through and passed us, so be it, that was the position we were in. So I felt it was definitely worth the risk, and it paid off.”
Ricciardo admitted he hadn’t expected to see Kvyat’s AlphaTauri in his mirrors in the closing laps.
“I think the threat at the end was Kvyat, and that was very surprising. I wasn’t sure where he came from, but I was told he was on softs, and he was coming on obviously very strong,” he said.
“But I held on, and I’m just very, very, very happy. It’s pretty surreal actually, obviously the first podium, and to get two now in such proximity, it’s awesome.”