Daniel Ricciardo will line up on the starting grid for Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix firmly in the belief that Red Bull owe him a victory on Formula One’s most famous streets.
All eyes are on Red Bull at the principality after Ricciardo cemented their status as the pre-race favourites by posting the fastest lap ever recorded in Monte Carlo en route to completing a practice double on Thursday.
Ricciardo, 28, is yet to open his winning account at his adopted home, but should have taken to the top step of the podium here two years ago.
The Australian was controlling the race before his pit crew botched his stop. He went in, Red Bull were not ready with his new tyres, and the ensuing delay allowed Lewis Hamilton to steal the victory.
Naturally, the usually laid-back Ricciardo was seething.
“Yes, I do feel I am owed a win,” Ricciardo said on the eve of this weekend’s race.
“But I have got to earn it. It is not going to happen without me putting the effort in. It is not going to happen because it should have already.”
The slow-speed nature of F1’s blue-riband event is one that plays to Red Bull’s strengths. Ferrari, in the spotlight here after it was revealed they are being investigated by the sport’s governing body for an alleged breach of engine rules, will be strong, too.
But, for championship leader Hamilton, who holds a 17-point lead over Sebastian Vettel, Sunday’s race may prove a case of damage-limitation. He was off the pace last year and finished only fourth in practice.
Indeed Mercedes, who can count the Monte Carlo venue as one of their bogey tracks, arrived here insisting Red Bull would be the favourites.
“They are trying to take a little bit of pressure off them and on to us,” Ricciardo added. “I would love to have this feeling going into every race, that we really genuinely believe we’ve got a chance to win.
“It’s exciting obviously. I feel one got away from me a few years ago, and now I’m ready to win.”
Ricciardo’s exuberant and unpredictable teammate Max Verstappen could provide his biggest threat.
The 20-year-old Dutchman ended a torrid streak – which saw him collide with Hamilton, Vettel and Ricciardo – by finishing third at the last round in Barcelona a fortnight ago.
It was a much-needed podium for the driver whose gung-ho attitude and fearless style has won him a legion of fans.
But, while Verstappen may be one of the sport’s most daring on-track gamblers, he will not be taking a punt at the Casino de Monte-Carlo which helps form the spectacular backdrop to this one-off race.
“I won 300 euros (£262) and I’m never going to go back again,” said Verstappen, who like Ricciardo and Hamilton resides in the Mediterranean tax haven. “I don’t like gambling. I think it’s just stupid.
“You go there to lose money. It doesn’t make sense. I would prefer to buy something for the money you lose.”
Away from the track, FIA president Jean Todt touched down in Monaco on Friday amid allegations that his former team Ferrari have been bending the rules.
Sebastian Vettel won the opening two rounds and rivals believe the Italians have been gaining an unfair advantage by deploying more engine power than is permitted.
The FIA has demanded that Ferrari run a device on their engine this weekend to ensure they are sticking to the law book.
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