Before the title war between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg exploded in Belgium, no one would have bet against a dominant victory for one or the other of the silver-clad duo.
But as their personal battle spilled into on-track carnage at Spa-Francorchamps, Red Bull’s surprise newcomer Ricciardo grinned through the melee to secure his second consecutive race victory.
It was the Australian’s third win of the season and his career, and a look at the drivers’ standings shows he is now only 35 points behind Hamilton for second.
“The fact that Daniel only has one win less than Nico is really remarkable,” said team boss Christian Horner.
“If I’m within 50 [points] coming into Abu Dhabi then yeah [there’s a chance], but there’s still a few races to go,” he said. “While it’s still mathematically possible, we’ll keep fighting. Today was a big day for that. To come and steal some points on a circuit where, let’s say, we weren’t supposed to, is nice. It’ll keep us smiling for a while.
“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 at a couple of those then it’s never over.”
With seven races left, the Australian said some of the tracks to come would suit his car.
Next up on the calendar is the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and Ricciardo knows it will be a difficult rack for Red Bull, but he fancies the team’s chances in Singapore and Japan.
“We’re really motivated right now,” the Australian, who is good value for the win at Monza with Paddy Power said. “Monza we know will be tricky again, but obviously the package we brought here was pretty racy, so, try and take something from here to Monza and then I think Singapore and Suzuka will be pretty good for us.”