Daniel Ricciardo has hit rock bottom after he was caught up in some drama and criticised for a costly error in a disastrous race in Italy.
If this isn’t rock bottom for Daniel Ricciardo, it’s awfully close to it.
The Australian finished 18th at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Italy overnight in his worst result of the season so far, as Max Verstappen romped to victory for Red Bull.
Ricciardo started sixth on the grid but it was all downhill from there. He had a disastrous start, colliding with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on the opening corner.
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Sainz moved up alongside Ricciardo and went the long way around to try and overtake him, but the McLaren bumped into the kerb and didn’t give Sainz space to pass.
They clipped wheels and went off the track into the gravel.
Sainz couldn’t get back on the track and was ruled out of the race in a complete disaster for Ferrari at home.
Luckily for Ricciardo, he managed to drive back onto the track and went into the pits to get fresh tyres.
The incident triggered a safety car but Ricciardo was not penalised. He fell down to 19th place.
Sainz was furious to have his second DNF in a row and believed Ricciardo didn’t give him enough room to pass on the track.
“Ricciardo hit me,” the Spaniard said on team radio.
Ricciardo disagreed at the time and said: “I got pushed into Sainz.”
The commentators believed Ricciardo was at fault but he escaped any penalty from race officials.
Sky Sports commentator Paul Di Resta said: “It is more Daniel’s fault, just unfortunate where they are though.
“But I don’t think there’s much you can do about it. If they’re not allowed to do that, I think you’re not going to see close side-by-side racing.”
Former world champion Nico Rosberg said the collision was just a “racing incident”.
“It’s OK. Nevertheless I did see Daniel do a little bit of a snap mid-corner, so pushing a little bit too much and it was him who drifted towards Carlos,” he said.
“I would see the fault a little bit more on Daniel, but it’s okay to put it down as a racing incident.”
Sky Sports analyst Anthony Davidson was far less forgiving for Ricciardo pushing Sainz off the track.
“It’s an embarrassing mistake,” he said.
“It’s a mistake that shouldn’t be happening at this kind of level and it’s a mistake that Carlos Sainz wasn’t expecting from someone usually as polished and as experienced as Daniel Ricciardo.
“To end a Ferrari driver’s race on lap one, I’d be making a quick exit if I was him.
“I can tell by his body language he was embarrassed. It’s good that he went and apologised to Carlos. It shouldn’t be happening.”
Ricciardo pitted twice more during the race in a bid to improve his pace on slick tyres but it made little impact and he couldn’t move up places.
He crossed the finish line in 18th — dead last out of the drivers who finished the race.
Afterwards, Ricciardo admitted he was likely in the wrong and made the effort to go inside Ferrari’s motor home to apologise to Sainz personally.
“I’ll go see Carlos now and apologise,” he said.
“It’s obviously not nice to ruin your day but also someone else’s. One of those days.”
Ricciardo took to Instagram on Monday morning (AEST) to apologise further.
“Lap 1 incidents are tough to take and it ruined mine and Carlos’s race,” he wrote. “I’m sorry to him for that, it sucks. I continued with damage and struggled from there.
“Will take this one on the chin and look forward to another go in Miami.”
Sainz said afterwards he had no hard feelings towards Ricciardo and appreciated him making the effort to go into the Ferrari garage and apologise.
“It raises Daniel as an athlete and as a sportsman,” Sainz said.
“Immediately after the race, you could see he’s had a tough one, but the first thing that he did, he was coming to the Ferrari box to apologise to me.
“There were the whole mechanics in here with me, and we all thanked him for the gesture.
“So that’s why there’s no hard feelings with Daniel, because what happened to him could happen to anyone out there today.
“Unfortunately, it had to happen to me, which I’m coming from the crash in Melbourne.”
Making the result even harder to swallow for Ricciardo is the fact his McLaren teammate Lando Norris finished on the podium in third place.
Rosberg said: “It’s important for Daniel to try and find a way to turn this around and try and get a little bit of an upper hand (on Norris) in some places now. It’s very important for his season this year.”
Only four races out of a 23-race calendar have been completed but there’s an inevitable sense the season could already be slipping away from Ricciardo.
So far this year, the 32-year-old has finished 14th in Bahrain, DNF in Saudi Arabia, sixth in Melbourne and now 18th in Imola.
Hopefully Ricciardo is an optimist, because the only way is up from here.
Max Verstappen led the race from start to finish to complete a perfect weekend, while his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez finished second.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had a podium finish locked in but he spun off the track when he was pushing hard late in the race and did well to salvage sixth place.