MONTREAL (AP) — Turns out the Formula One team of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton is beatable after all.
The two Mercedes drivers had combined to win the first six races this season — sweeping the top two spots in all but one event. But when a mechanical problem forced them to slow down to keep their brakes from overheating, Daniel Ricciardo sped past to claim victory in the Canadian Grand Prix for the first win of his career.
“The more time I spend here, the more comfortable I am,” said the 24-year-old Australian, who has two third-place finishes, two fourths and a short-lived second place in the season-opener in Melbourne before he was disqualified for an illegal fuel flow. “A lot of sport comes down to belief: If you truly believe in something, you can make it work.”
The win by Red Bull was the first this season for any team other than the twin Silver Arrow Mercedes of Rosberg, the championship leader, and Hamilton, a three-time Canadian GP champion. But the cars experienced the same problem midway through the race; Hamilton’s brakes overheated in the 46th lap and he did not finish.
Rosberg left from the pole and led for most of the race, but his car was noticeably slower over the second half. Ricciardo pulled past him with two laps to go.
“The race came to life at the end,” Ricciardo said. “It’s still a little bit surreal. It’s not like we were leading the whole race, so it’s not like I had time to understand that I was going to win.”
Rosberg finished second under a caution caused by a last-lap crash between Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez, easily protecting his lead in the championship standings. The German has 140 of a possible 175 points through seven races, with two victories and five second-place finishes. Hamilton remains second in the standings with 118 points.
With his first podium finish, Ricciardo moved up to third with 79 points, passing Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who was sixth and has 69 points. Four-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel, who won in Montreal last year, earned 15 points for his third-place finish and is fifth in the standings with 60 points.
“We still have a lot of work ahead of us, because the Mercedes are still quite a bit quicker,” said Vettel, Ricciardo’s Red Bull teammate.
Drivers had to contend with track temperatures of 118 degrees at the start, on a sun-drenched day at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the Ile de Notre Dame near downtown Montreal. The track, home to the Canadian Grand Prix since 1978, will get a face-lift as part of a 10-year extension announced Saturday to keep the race in town through 2024.
Known as one of the more unpredictable tracks in Formula One, Montreal offered excitement from the start when Hamilton and Rosberg, who share a tense partnership, went tire-to-tire into the first chicane. Hamilton was forced to brake, allowing Vettel to pass.
But Hamilton was soon back in second and the two Mercedes drivers seemed headed for what would have been their sixth 1-2 finish in a row. That ended when Hamilton tried to overtake Rosberg on a chicane at Turn 7 and instead was forced onto the grass.
He came out of the exchange with his car smoking, and within a lap the 2008 world champion — winner of four races this season — was out of the race. That left Mercedes with just Rosberg, and he was told over the radio to conserve his brakes so that he could make it to the end.
“We have such speed and to finish with just one car and come in second is hugely disappointing,” Rosberg said. “Our ambition is to finish 1-2. We have to make sure that we get back there in Austria.”
Only 11 of the 22 cars were still running at the end of the 70 laps on the 2.71-mile circuit. Massa was running fifth when he tried to pass Perez and collided with him, nearly taking out Vettel in the process; Massa posted a thumbs-up picture on Twitter from the hospital, and a Formula One spokesman said Perez also checked out OK.
Mercedes has been dominating Formula One this season, and leads Infinity Red Bull 258-139 in the constructor’s standings.
“We are fully aware that Red Bull is an amazingly strong team, and pushing like crazy to catch us,” Rosberg said. “We are always concerned. We are really pushing to extend the gap.”