Daniel Ricciardo enjoying F1 'purple period' after career-best weekend
"He is in a purple period of his career," says Horner after sublime win while Ricciardo insists Monaco GP was his best-ever F1 weekend
Daniel Ricciardo and Christian Horner, his boss at Red Bull, believe the Australian reached a new career peak during his victory in Monaco.
Ricciardo topped every session across the weekend in the Principality - including each of the three qualifying segments - before successfully overcoming a serious engine malfunction to beat Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton to the chequered flag.
"This is probably the best weekend of my career," reflected Ricciardo. "My best weekend and the most satisfying."
An effusive Horner said that Ricciardo was enjoying "a purple period of his career", hailing a performance he described as "one of his best ever".
But it wasn't Ricciardo's peerless pace which impressed Horner as much as the 28-year-old's problem solving under the stress of leading F1's most famous race when the MGK-U unit of his engine failed before half distance.
"When you lose the MGU-K that changes all the energy movement through the braking system of the car so his rear brakes were immediately not far from going on fire," Horner explained. "He then had to wind all the brake bias through to the front of the car and at the same time we were asking him to do as much lifting as possible to keep them cool. And with all the balance changes and set-up changes going on, he's also got Sebastian one second behind him.
"He was probably losing a couple of seconds of lap time and while it may have looked from the outside that he wasn't having to manage much, inside the car it was an enormously impressive job.
"He is in a purple period of his career. This was a great demonstration of problem management under pressure and the way he dealt with it was incredible. He could have been in Apollo 13!"
How did Ricciardo bring his car home?
While the extreme difficulty of overtaking at Monaco aided Riccardo's rescue act - team-mate Max Verstappen was five seconds a lap faster than Carlos Sainz on the lap which followed his pass on the Renault - Horner added: "In the race Daniel was asking for lots of information about Max's tyres, which tyre was giving up first, and how far Nico Hulkenberg had gone on his tyres. So he also had the capacity to think about the global picture.
"Doing what he was able to do today, this was one of his best ever drives. When you listen to his radio content, and how calm he is under a maximum stress scenario, it was truly impressive."
How close were Red Bull to retiring Ricciardo?
Remarkably, Red Bull considered retiring Ricciardo from the race after the MGU-K failure due to safety concerns.
"There were about 50 laps to go when the MGU-K suddenly stopped completely," said Horner. "At that point there was talk of retiring the car because of the potential damage of the K going into the combustion engine. My position was that he was leading the Monaco GP so we run until this engine stops."
"I discussed it with Adrian [Newey] and he was in total agreement that we go until it smokes."
Where does Ricciardo stand among the elite?
Speaking before the race, Sky F1 pundit Martin Brundle said Ricciardo deserved to be considered in the same bracket as Vettel and Hamilton.
"He's certainly of that ilk now, and you've got to include him in those conversations when you're talking about who's the best driver on the grid," said Brundle.
"He's the best overtaker on the grid, bar none, and by some margin I would say. He's delivering the pace and he probably hasn't had as many pole positions as he would have liked and deserved, but he's never had a dominant car in qualifying.
"He stays out of trouble in the race, and he's the real deal."