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amazing RICCIARDO back on top

Daniel Ricciardo can thank Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton for his unlikely return to the Formula One winner’s list at the Italian Grand Prix.

When the title fighters got punchy at the first chicane at Monza, colliding heavily and taking themselves out of the race, he was able to consolidate an early lead and romp to the chequered flag ahead of his team mate Lando Norris on a landmark day for McLaren.

It had been nine years since McLaren won in F1 and 170 races since the team scored its last 1-2, and Ricciardo had also been winless since leaving Red Bull Racing despite taking podium places last year with Renault.

The Honey Badger has also struggled since joining McLaren, usually running behind Norris in qualifying and races, but clearly had his mojo back at Monza. He even got to celebrate with a ‘Shoey’ and delivered a victory speech in fluent Italian that earned him an ovation from the partisan crowd.

“It’s insane. About … time. There was something in me on Friday. I knew there was going to be something good,” Ricciardo says.

“I’ll be honest. I don’t think it’s actually sunk in yet. It’s actually the first time I’ve been overwhelmed by winning. It’s been over three years or something.

“Oh wow. I just know that nobody would have expected this. It’s easy to lose confidence and lose your way. Never doubt yourself. Some of the speed bumps along the way make moments like this so much sweeter.

“When I had the lead today, I was convinced that no-one was going to take it away from me. I’m just grateful,” says Ricciardo.

Sergio Perez ran third on the road but it was Valtteri Bottas who got third place, his podium finish the reward for a drive back from last place on the grid after an engine change in his Mercedes.

“I told the team I’m going to be on the podium today. From my side, it was good fun,” says Bottas.

Norris, too, was overjoyed despite being refused the chance to move ahead of Ricciardo by the McLaren team.

“We’ve had a pretty awesome weekend. We’ve been working towards this. We got a 1-2 finally. I’m just happy for the team,” says Norris.

“You want to go for it, but I’m also here for the long term and the team. We could have ended up like the other two ended up. I’ll get my chance in the future.”

The collision between Verstappen and Hamilton, which came as the Mercedes driver was resuming after his tyre stop, following light contact between the pair on the opening lap. Predictably, each blamed the other.

“He didn’t want to give way today,” says Hamilton. “I was racing as hard as I could. I was ahead in Turn 2 and then suddenly he was on top of me.”

Verstappen, whose car finished on top of Hamilton’s after causing considerable damage to the Mercedes, had the opposing view.

“He cut across. I didn’t expect him to keep on squeezing, squeezing, squeezing. If he had left me a car’s width … I think he would still have been in front

“I ran around the outside. He realised I was going for it. Unfortunately we touched. If one guy is not willing to work, what are you going to do?,” says Verstappen.

A Stewards hearing after the race blamed Verstappen for the crash and hit him with a three-spot grid penalty for the next race, at Sochi in Russia.

There was plenty of action at Monza, with a number of wheel-to-wheel clashes including Aston Martin team mates Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll.

But there was no chance for last year’s winner, Pierre Gasly, to join the action as both he and his AlphaTauri team mate Yuki Tsunoda were left in the garage at the start with mechanical problems.

2021 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX

  1. Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
  2. Lando Norris, McLaren
  3. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
  4. Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
  5. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
  6. Fernando Alonso, Alpine
  7. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
  8. Sergio Perez, Red Bull
  9. Esteban Ocon, Alpine
  10. Lando Norris, McLaren
  11. Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
  12. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
  13. Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
  14. Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
  15. Robert Kubica, Alfa Romeo
  16. Nicholas Latifi, Williams
  17. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, DNF
  18. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG, DNF
  19. Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, DNS
  20. Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, DNS

CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS:

1. Verstappen, 226.5; 2. Hamilton, 221.5; 3. Bottas, 141; 4. Norris, 132; 5. Perez, 118; 6. Leclerc, 104; 7. Sainz, 97.5; 8. Ricciardo, 89; 9. Gasly, 66; 10. Alonso, 50.

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