For a short time during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Christian Horner was sure Daniel Ricciardo was about to repeat his heroics from China earlier this year and charge through the field for victory.
Ricciardo appeared to be on the best strategy after the pit-stop window, having stretched out his opening stint longer than any of the front-runners — meaning he had fresher tyres for the second segment of the race. He quickly closed up on teammate Max Verstappen as the Red Bull drivers caught the leading trio, but his charge fizzled out once they had got past the struggling Valtteri Bottas.
Ricciardo was unable to get close enough to pass Verstappen, meaning he signed off his Red Bull career with a fourth place — he will move to Renault for 2019.
When asked how much he wanted to see Ricciardo sign off his Red Bull tenure with a podium, Horner said: “We were all hoping that Dan would be there. Obviously with it being the last race with the team, we wanted him to do a shoey for a final time.
“It wasn’t to be in the end. After the pit stop I thought it might not just be a podium. His race ran out of steam a little bit over the last ten laps.”
Horner disagreed with the suggestion that Ricciardo had been left out a little bit too long early on.
“I don’t think so. What we were trying to do was to give him the best tyre for the second half of the race, and when he came out of the pits and went 2s faster than the leaders we thought this could be another China.
He had 26-lap-better tyres than Lewis and 16-lap-better tyres than Max. We thought this should give him a competitive advantage to the end of the race but unfortunately after that initial kick… once he was able to close up the group, he wasn’t able to get any further.”