Ricciardo runs on his own en route to first ’17 podium at Spain

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There seemed to be three races in one in today’s Spanish Grand Prix. There was the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel for the win, the intense midfield battle between five or six teams for the lower points, and the singular drive of Daniel Ricciardo on his own for what became his first podium of 2017.

The Australian has had an unhappy start to the season with fourth, fifth and two DNFs thus far in the opening four races. An early brake issue took him out of the race early in Sochi, the previous Grand Prix, and resigned him to being a spectator rather early on.

Today in Barcelona, Ricciardo only qualified sixth but inherited third as a result of Valtteri Bottas’ engine issue and the contact between Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen that took them out of the race.

So it was, then, that Ricciardo was more than a minute behind the top two but the only other car on the lead lap after 66 laps in Barcelona.

There was no podium “shoey” but Ricciardo was relieved to take what he could get and finally have a result of note this year.

“It feels good. We had a little bit of fortune today with Valtteri stopping. We were fourth otherwise,” Ricciardo said on the podium.

“For now, we’ll take all we can. It’s so nice to be on the podium again.”

Red Bull’s chassis seemed stronger in Spain but with Renault (badged as TAG Heuer for this team) not having an engine update for several more races at least, the power deficit is stretched over the length of a Grand Prix.

Verstappen, whose Spanish Grand Prix race defense went away on the first lap, said Red Bull has more work to do if it is to close that gap to Mercedes and Ferrari ahead of them.

“We still need to be faster. With three cars retiring from the top three teams, people end up on the podium,” Verstappen told NBCSN’s Will Buxton. “We’ll see in Monaco. We need to improve.”