Daniel Ricciardo says he was thrilled Red Bull let both its drivers enter a hearty track battle at Sepang which played its part in deciding the race winner as he looks to take momentum to Suzuka.
The Australian driver claimed his first win in over two years at the Malaysian Grand Prix as he took full advantage of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes engine blowing up 16 laps from the finish. Just behind him team-mate Max Verstappen eased home in second to secure Red Bull's first 1-2 finish since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix.
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Midway through the race Ricciardo was involved in a track tussle with Verstappen with the Australian using bold defensive driving against his team-mate to hold position in second place.
With Verstappen looking to close within a pit stop window of leader Hamilton, Ricciardo says he wasn't surprised the team didn't radio him to let Verstappen through as he believes if the full race strategy played out Hamilton would have easily passed the Dutchman on much fresher tyres at the end of the race.
As a result he was delighted to take on a fierce but fair battle for position with his highly-rated younger team-mate.
“If Lewis continued he was going to win the race whatever was going to happen with pit stop windows,” Ricciardo said. “Even if Max had stayed in front if Lewis pitted, then especially on fresh tyres, let along the same tires but fresh tyres, Lewis would have made it quite easy work.
“So it was great that the team let us race. For me it was full racing. It was cool. The team was just waiting for both of us to spear off, but it was good fun. It was nice to actually be given the chance to race like that, and to also show the team that we can be sensible in the heat of battle and the heat of the moment.”
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With Verstappen being involved in a number of on-track clashes this season – largely with the Ferraris – Ricciardo says he wasn't wary of moves the 19-year-old may attempt as he adopted a steely defensive driving to hold his racing line.
“If I am attacking someone, I will probably know if someone is going to put up more of a fight,” he explained. “Some drivers defend harder than others, but in terms of me defending or trying to hold on to a position, then it is more on my terms, like I am the one that puts my car where I want, and it is their job to go around. So in terms of defense it doesn't matter who it is.
“I was aware that we were teammates, so in the back of your mind, it is okay be sensible in terms of if you are going to commit to a line stay on it. If he slides into me then it is not my fault. I say look I stayed on my line, so drive hard but whatever line I go for stay on that. So in the defensive mode it didn't really change if it was Max or anyone else.”
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