"It's been a long time", says Ricciardo of front row spot


McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo will line up on the front row of the grid for tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix after success in Saturday's sprint qualifying race at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

Ricciardo was fifth quickest in yesterday's formal qualifying session, but McLaren gambled on starting both him and team mate Lando Norris on the soft tyres for today's 18-lap sprint while everyone else played safe on mediums.

It meant he was in the perfect position when the lights went out to seize the opportunity of a slow-starting Lewis Hamilton getting bogged down with wheel spin.

Ricciardo and Max Verstappen went either side of the Mercedes into the first corner, and the Australian even thought he had a genuine chance of forcing his way into second place behind race leader Valtteri Bottas.

"That's what gave me the chance, you know, a good start," he told the media in parc ferme after the end of today's race. "I thought maybe I'd get Max at Turn 1, but he had the inside.

“I had a good tow and I had also a clear line braking for turn 1, so I was able to go quite deep and I thought maybe I could get Max for a second.

“But then he had the inside for one, and I think if I stayed there and tried to keep the inside for two, I don’t think there was enough room for two cars.”

With Bottas having to start from the pit lane tomorrow for taking new engine components, Verstappen is promoted to pole for the Italian Grand Prix with Ricciardo second followed by Norris and Hamilton.

It's Ricciardo's first front row start since he was last on pole with Red Bull in the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix. "It's been a long time to be in this position," he said.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS), McLaren F1 Team 11.09.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Monza

"Tomorrow is the important one, but we gain a position from Valtteri's problems, so we're on the front row for the first time in a long time.

"I'm very happy with that," he said. "It's good, it's good to be back!

“For McLaren it’s been a long time, for me it’s been a long time,” he added. “So it’s definitely refreshing to be back up here.

Asked if he would now focus on settling for second place in tomorrow's race, Ricciardo replied that it would be "Full attack!"

“We’re close and I know a few things might have to swing in our favour tomorrow," he conceded. "But we’ve certainly put ourself in the fight, in the hunt. I’m very excited to get going with that and try to make some good stuff happen.”

“I’m hungry. I think anyone that saw me after qualifying yesterday, I think they’re not surprised about this outcome today.

"I look forward to tomorrow!" he added, after delighting the fans in the grandstands showing off his Italian linguistic skills.

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