By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo has put his Monaco misery behind him and is hoping for another epic battle with Lewis Hamilton in Montreal this weekend.
Two weeks after taking a first Formula One pole position, only to lose out on victory for the second race running due to no fault of his own, the smiling Australian returns to the scene of his first grand prix victory in a feisty mood.
Triple world champion Hamilton, aiming for a fifth Canadian Grand Prix win after also taking his first career triumph at the Circuit Gilles Villenueve, and his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg will be favorites again.
But Ricciardo reckons he can be a contender, particularly at a track where the weather can act as a leveler. Temperatures are forecast to be cool with some rain.
“Now that I’ve sort of got over Monaco I just want to get back in the car and basically smash it and get amongst it,” Ricciardo said on social media.
“You’re going to see the same intensity that you saw in Monaco. I plan on keeping that up and not letting anything else get in the way,” added the Australian, whose 18-year-old Dutch team mate Max Verstappen won in Barcelona.
Renault’s latest specification engine, which Red Bull use with Tag Heuer branding, has provided a good boost in horsepower to help close the gap.
Canada has been a rollercoaster for Ricciardo in the past, his breakthrough win in 2014 followed by 13th last year when Hamilton won from pole position. He was 15th in 2013.
Hamilton has the momentum from Monaco and is a renowned master of Montreal while Rosberg, 24 points clear at the top, will want to hit back after two races without a podium.
Another win for either would take Mercedes level with Red Bull in the all-time lists, on 51 each, but the champions know the pressure is on.
“The main thing we took away (from Monaco) was the very real threat from Red Bull,” said team boss Toto Wolff. “It took a bold strategy, a big push from Lewis and an even bigger slice of luck with Daniel’s slow pitstop to get us that win.
“We have no breathing space in this championship.”
Ferrari hope to add to the pressure, after their early promise fell off. Monaco, with Kimi Raikkonen retiring and Sebastian Vettel fourth, was their worst result of the season.
Both drivers can expect to see the benefit of a power unit upgrade at a circuit named after one of the Ferrari greats but where the Italian team have not won for 12 years, and Raikkonen reckons the results so far have been deceptive.
“Certain races that we’re pretty certain will suit us better have been moved from the beginning to later on in the season and all the races that we knew were difficult for us have been moved to the front,” said the 2007 world champion.
“Just looking at the results doesn’t always tell you the full story.”
(This version of the story corrects paragraph nine to ‘podium’ from ‘points’)
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)