The contrast in emotions of the two Red Bull Racing drivers in the final seconds of qualifying for today’s Monaco Grand Prix could not have been any clearer.
Daniel Ricciardo punched the air and saluted the Monte Carlo crowd as he crossed the start-finish line, secure in the knowledge that he will start from pole position when the five red lights go out to start the race at 5.10pm UAE time.
His teammate Max Verstappen, however, stood sullen-faced in the Red Bull garage, arms folded, reflecting on a missed opportunity.
Red Bull have been the class of the field in the Principality all weekend and if Ricciardo can get away well at the start and retain the lead then he will have every chance of securing a seventh grand prix victory.
Verstappen should have been on the front row with him, but a costly crash in final practice wrecked his chances.
The Dutchman was faster than Ricciardo going into the final minutes of the practice session. He looked as if he had an answer to every question the Australian had and looked favourite to become the youngest pole-sitter in Fomula One history.
One tiny misjudgement later and the 20 year old’s weekend ambitions were in tatters.
Verstappen clipped the inside railing on the exit of the Swimming Pool complex too hard, breaking the front right suspension arm, and his damaged RB14 chassis speared off into the barriers, causing considerable damage to the right-hand side of his car.
His Red Bull mechanics were unable to repair the car in time and Verstappen now faces the problem of trying to score points from last on the grid at a place where overtaking is nigh on impossible, unless the driver in front makes a mistake.
It continues Verstappen’s rough start to the season, which has seen him either spin or have contact with a rival car at every race so far this season and team principal Christian Horner said he hoped his driver would learn from his latest setback.
“This place bites hard if you abuse it and Max is a very fast driver, that is in no doubt, and this weekend we have a very fast car and he should have been competing for the front row,” he told Sky Sports.
“There is no more brutal lesson to what he has had and hopefully he is smart enough to learn from that.”
Ricciardo said that the pace of the RB14 on the narrow confines of the streets of Monte Carlo meant he felt he did not have to push too hard to get his pole time of 1 minute, 10.810 seconds, a lap record around the famous street circuit.
“Knowing we had a great package all week, we need to push it but we don’t need to overdrive it,” he said in a news conference. “Just need to hit your marks and keep it clean.”
Ricciardo has been fastest in every session over the weekend. He said he and the team had been determined to capitalise on the chance to be competitive at a venue where engine power is not vital.
The Red Bull package has often struggled this season as the Renault engine they use has struggled on horsepower up against Mercedes and Ferrari.
“Every session we’ve been quick, it’s a bit like 2016 – coming into this race knowing we had a legitimate chance to fight for a pole, knowing how the cars performed the first few races,” Ricciardo said.
“We didn’t really change much, it was one of those pretty smooth ones. I could just build up to it and find my rhythm and had some fun.”
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel starts alongside Ricciardo having usurped championship leader Lewis Hamilton with his final lap of the session.
Hamilton is third on a track where his Mercedes was expected to struggle, with the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas next up.