Daniel Ricciardo took his eighth podium finish of the season with third place in the United States Grand as Sebastian Vettel bounced back from a pit lane start to claim seventh place and six points.
The race was won by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who took his 10th win of the season ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg to extend his championship lead over the German to 24 points.
Daniel began the race from fifth on the grid but the Aussie made a poor getaway and dropped to seventh place as ahead pole position man Rosberg led the field away with Hamilton second with Williams driver Felipe Massa third ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Daniel quickly made amends for his slow start and passed McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen on lap one to climb to sixth place.
Behind him though, there was drama as Sergio Perez overcooked his entry into Turn 12. The Force India driver collided first with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and then cannoned into Adrian Sutil’s Sauber. Raikkonen continued on but Perez and Sutil were ruled out of further action. It was a particularly bitter end to the race for Sauber for whom Sutil had registered a first top-10 qualifying result of the season on Saturday, putting the team in a good position to score their first points of the year.
With debris scattered across the track, the safety car made an appearance and a number of runners headed for the pits. One of those was Seb, who made two stops before emerging on medium tyres, set for a long, long stint.
When the SC peeled off track, Daniel was straight into action. He completed a brave move on Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso to claim fifth place and set off in pursuit of Bottas.
In the end, the pass on the Finn was done in the pits. The team undercut the Williams by bringing Daniel in for his first stop on lap 14. He took on medium tyres and when Bottas made his stop a lap later Daniel had made up enough time to edge past the Williams man in Turn One as he rejoined.
A similar move earned Dan third spot. The Australian made his second stop on lap 31, taking on more medium tyres. That prompted Williams to pit Massa, but the Brazilian was delayed for a moment during his stop and Dan flew past and into the final podium position as Massa made the run out of the pit exit and up to the first corner.
Thereafter, it was about race management and 24 laps later Dan crossed the line with a comfortable four seconds in hand over Massa to take his season tally to 214, 59 clear of Bottas.
Afterwards, Daniel paid tribute to the team for the pit stops that had helped his cause.
“The pit stops were really good, Red Bull is known for being awesome in the pits and they showed it today,” he said.
“I’m happy with that. I could see the Mercedes for the first part of the race which was really cool, I don’t know if they were just chilling, but we seemed to have good pace. It was great to get ahead of the Williams and to get onto the podium. The start wasn’t very good, I have to put my hand up to that one, but the recovery was good so we didn’t really lose out.”
Sebastian, meanwhile, had a troubled first stint, with the champion struggling for pace. He rose to ninth position during his long phase on his medium tyres but when he was passed in rapid succession by Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne the team eventually chose to pit him again on lap 26 and thereafter he blossomed.
He climbed to seventh by lap 43 and then on the next tour passed Fernando Alonso for sixth as the Spaniard exited the pits following his final stop. Seb, on medium tyres, tried to hang on to the position but, armed with fresh soft tyres, Alonso reclaimed sixth two laps later.
On lap 48 the team decided on aggressive strategy to ensure a good, possibly even more profitable finish for Seb. The champion pitted and took on soft tyres. He dropped to 14th place but quickly began to scythe through the pack.
In quick succession he dismissed Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado, Jean-Eric Vergne, and Magnussen to reclaim seventh. He then began to close on Alonso. The Spaniard just held out, however, and Seb ended up crossing the line just 0.5s behind the Ferrari.
“The first half of the race wasn’t so good,” said Sebastian. “The second half it came more alive and we were able to make up some ground with a pit-stop near the end of the race. We decided to go for fresh tyres with only a few laps to go, so we were in a stronger position at that point compared to others who were struggling on older tyres and the pace was better. The low downforce set up was good for passing, but it made it difficult to stay close to people.”
Following the race, Team Principal Christian Horner hailed the effort as a real team performance, with the driver’s efforts being complemented by sterling work on the pit wall and in the garage.
“After a poor start, it was a fantastic recovery from Daniel. Some of his overtaking manoeuvres, along with the today’s pit work, got us back ahead of Fernando and the two Williams to take a place on the podium, so an incredible drive by Daniel” he said.
“For Sebastian, after starting from the pit lane, he had a difficult first stint struggling with the wind; his race really started to come alive on his second set of tyres. Then, with a final stop going onto the soft tyres for the last eight laps, he drove incredibly well to finish seventh place form the pit lane – so a good team performance today.” (Red Bull)