Daniel Ricciardo: 'I thought I was starting the race in 20th'

Forced to retire after a single lap at the Bahrain Grand Prix, a disconsolate Daniel Ricciardo was left "heartbroken....

Posted: Apr 16, 2018 11:43 AM
Updated: Apr 16, 2018 11:43 AM

Forced to retire after a single lap at the Bahrain Grand Prix, a disconsolate Daniel Ricciardo was left "heartbroken."

What a difference a week makes.

Daniel Ricciardo speaks to CNN's The Circuit

Red Bull driver credits mechanics for making Chinese GP win possible

Australian "would like to think" he's back in title race

The Red Bull driver claimed a thrilling victory in Shanghai on Sunday, reaffirming his reputation as the most accomplished overtaker in Formula One.

"Oh, it's starting to kind of sink in now, but just a crazy, crazy afternoon," Ricciardo told CNN's The Circuit after the sixth race win of his career and his first of 2018.

"A week ago, I genuinely just felt heartbroken. The sport does that. I obviously try not to let it get to me. But it can get you up and down and I was pretty emotional about it.

"Then today, having that high... It kind of takes you back to all the sacrifices and the little things over time. You think about your family ... I nearly broke down on the podium. It was fun nonetheless!"

'Everyone did their bit'

The Australian's smile was a mile wide as he celebrated by drinking champagne from one of his shoes -- his trademark "shoey" -- but it could so easily have been another difficult day.

A major engine failure during final practice meant Ricciardo came within minutes of starting from the back of the grid.

It took a Herculean effort by the Red Bull team just to get his car ready for qualifying, with Ricciardo eventually starting in sixth position.

"Lunchtime Saturday, I thought I was starting the race in 20th," Ricciardo admitted, after flames had erupted from the back of his RB14 car. "That's really where I was."

"The mechanics got the car out and allowed us to start further up the grid. They made the win possible."

The 28-year-old also had the team's strategy to thank, as Red Bull took full advantage of the safety car on lap 33 of 56, deploying fresh "soft" tires at the optimum time.

"It meant we could attack at the end, and that was a fast car those last 20 or so laps," Ricciardo explained, having utilized his added race pace to sweep past the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas to seize the lead.

"Everyone put in their bit. I did the overtakes, they made the other calls. Everyone really can be so proud today. It's awesome."

READ: "I don't win boring races" -- Ricciardo

READ: Red Bull looking to "close the gap" on rivals

Title contender?

Ricciardo's win leaves the championship wide open, with fewer than 25 points separating the top five drivers after three races.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel took maximum points in Melbourne and Bahrain, but had to be content with eighth place Sunday following a collision with Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

It means Ricciardo could conceivably leapfrog Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel should results go his way in Azerbaijan later this month -- a grand prix he won last season.

Visit CNN.com/motosport for more news and features

Is he now right back in the title race?

"We'll see!" grinned Ricciardo. "After a day like today, you'd like to think so, but we need a few more days like this. Might have to get a few more shoes..."

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