Daniel Ricciardo thanked his Red Bull team for trying everything it could to help him pull off a surprise Singapore Grand Prix victory, and insisted that no-one can be disappointed to see the bid come up less than half a second short.
The Australian wiped out a 25-second Nico Rosberg lead after switching to a set of supersoft Pirellis for the final few laps at Marina Bay, but hit traffic – and saw the best of his rubber drop off – at just the wrong moment, allowing the new championship leader to hold on for his third victory in succession since F1's summer break.
Ricciardo had started second on the grid after taking full advantage of Lewis Hamilton's early weekend problems, but was unable to pass Rosberg off the line, settling into the pursuer role over 61 laps. With no pressure from behind, second place was always going to be on the cards but Ricciardo and Red Bull, who had jointly seen a win in Monaco dashed from their grasp, decided that there was nothing to lose by chasing victory.
Ironically, the decision to put the Australian back onto the faster rubber was precipitated by Hamilton and Mercedes trying to wrest third place back from Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen by doing something similar, with the strategy percolating up the order. Things really got interesting, however, when Rosberg missed his window due to backmarkers and had to press on to the end on ageing soft compound tyres while the behind benefited from fresher rubber.
“I felt pretty good on the soft tyre, and I think our pace was more or less there, but to overtake around here – and a Mercedes too – isn't easy, so to do it on the same tyre, even if I was half a second quicker, you still need a pretty big speed advantage to pull something off unless there's a mistake from the guy in front. I think we did the right thing in the end as staying on the same tyre probably wouldn't have been enough [to win the race]. It was close and, as soon as we did the pit-stop , we thought Nico was going to come in, so I pushed really hard on those tyres and, by the end, they were a little bit dead. But at least we got close...
“We did all we could – the team put me on a three-stopper at the end and it was fun. It was good to push the whole race and get close to Nico at the end. Even if the track is difficult to overtake on, it was nice to push to the last lap and know that I was at least putting pressure on him.”
Coming home 0.4secs behind the winner might have been frustrating for a driver who saw new team-mate win on debut in Barcelona just weeks before his Monaco agony, but Ricciardo remains positive that Red Bull's development this season can yet land a victory for his side of the garage.
“I'm sitting here pretty happy because I felt that I did all I could, the perfect race,” he commented, “If there was anything that would have been 'more' perfect it was the start, but Nico got off the line well so, even with an amazing start, I don't think we would have got the jump.
"We've come very close this year on numerous occasions, but I'm not going to stand here and be disappointed. I think we gave it a good shot and we tried something at the end with the strategy - it was close but, hey, we're on the podium again and it feels great.
"In dry circumstances, this was our best shot [at a win] and we got to within half a second. After the race, I said on the radio to the team that 'we will win this year'. We're going to get a downpour somewhere and that will hopefully throw a few curveballs so we can get the victory we're after."