Daniel Ricciardo has enjoyed a welcome return to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas with a well-deserved fifth place in the 2021 United States Grand Prix.
Starting from sixth on the grid, a quick start and some aggressive driving helped the West Australian move past Carlos Sainz on the opening lap.
From there, he held firm in fifth and defended his position well against the Spaniard for the majority of the 53-lap race, before Sainz lost his place to Valtteri Bottas on the closing laps – helping Ricciardo and McLaren in the outright Constructors’ Championship.
Although Ricciardo was unable to catch Sainz’s Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc for fourth place, it was a strong showing from the 33-year-old who secured his third top five finish in four outings.
Ahead of him, the FIA Formula 1 World Championship’s first race in the USA since 2019 witnessed a thrilling battle between Championship title contenders, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen started the race in pole position, but Hamilton got the better start and took the lead on the opening corner.
In response to Verstappen and Red Bull then attempted an aggressive undercut on lap 10 and pitted the Dutchman three laps earlier than the seven-time F1 champion – a strategy that paid dividends as Verstappen regained the lead.
Despite dropping to second, Hamilton did catch his title rival to set up a close battle in the final stages, however as hard as Hamilton tried, Verstappen crossed the line a second ahead of his title opponent.
Rounding out the podium was Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate in Sergio Perez, who is currently enjoying a good run of form with a second consecutive podium.
Just five races remain in the 2021 season with 13 points now separating Verstappen and Hamilton, while Perez’s result saw him jump Ricciardo’s McLaren teammate Lando Norris to fourth overall, ahead of the Briton by just one point.
Despite remaining eighth on the Championship standings, Ricciardo slightly closed the gap on the sixth placed Sainz with 21.5 points now the difference between the two.
In addition to his P5 finish, Ricciardo also lived out a childhood dream during the weekend, cutting laps of the circuit in his hero Dale Earnhardt Senior's 1984 Chevrolet Monte Carlo NASCAR stock car. Watch here.
The FIA Formula 1 World Championship now heads to Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City for the Mexican Grand Prix on 7 November.