Daniel Ricciardo downed champagne from his sweaty race boot and then dedicated his first Formula One victory in more than two years to Jules Bianchi, after winning an eventful Malaysian Grand Prix.
Australian driver Ricciardo fended off a fine challenge from teammate Max Verstappen before taking advantage of Lewis Hamilton’s cruel engine failure to lead home a Red Bull one-two at the Sepang International Circuit.
As has become customary in recent races, Ricciardo celebrated his podium triumph by pouring champagne into his boot – an Australian tradition known as a “shoey” – before taking two swigs.
One-by-one Ricciardo then called on his boss Christian Horner, Verstappen and Nico Rosberg, who finished third despite a first-corner collision with Sebastian Vettel, to take the challenge. And to their credit, and much hilarity, they did.
Riccardo, who earlier this season ignored overtures from Ferrari to commit his future to Red Bull, last took to the winning step of the podium at the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix – only months before his close friend Bianchi was involved in what would prove to be a fatal crash in Japan.
“It was definitely a life-changing moment – the loss of Jules – as a competitor and a friend,” Ricciardo said. “That was hard to take. I would have loved to have won sooner, and dedicated this a bit sooner.
“Since that day it definitely changes you as a person for the better. I’ve become more appreciative of the things I have and the position I am in. Today I won a Formula One race. It’s another dream come true. So, this one is definitely for him.”
Ricciardo and Verstappen, who was on a different strategy to his teammate, were locked in a thrilling fight for second place before Hamilton’s retirement with just 15 laps remaining.
“To race Formula One like that, and to be inches from each other is fun,” Ricciardo, 27, added.
“You’re in the heat of battle, and you’re seeing red but at the same time you’ve got to smile. You know the guy that’s two metres to the right of you is having the same amount of fun. It’s a good shot of adrenaline.”
After dominating the weekend, pole-sitter Hamilton controlled the race only to suffer yet another engine failure in a season plagued by mechanical woes.
”Oh, no, no,” said an exasperated Hamilton with his hands on his crash helmet and his stricken Mercedes on fire.
The world champion left his cockpit before crouching down on his knees in the gravel at turn one. It could be the defining image of a championship which increasingly appears to be falling in Rosberg’s direction.
Rosberg recovered to finish third after Vettel crashed into him at turn one, and while the Ferrari driver – who will serve a three-place grid drop at the next race in Japan as punishment – was forced to retire, Rosberg turned in a strong recovery drive to move 23 points clear of Hamilton with just 125 available.
Elsewhere, Jenson Button finished ninth in his 300th start while British rookie Jolyon Palmer claimed the first points of his grand prix career after he crossed the line in 10th.