Did Daniel Ricciardo have a moment in la la land, perhaps think of one of the hot la chica bellas he might have seen in Barcelona?
Whatever it was, it ended in an embarrassing low-speed spin behind a virtual safety car that probably cost him a place in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Pix.
The Red Bull star ended up in fifth place after 66 laps of the Circuit de Catalaunya, despite setting the fastest lap time on the tricky 4.6km circuit and never came within cooee of the Mercedes Benzes of winner Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who ran second.
Third was Ricciardo’s teammate, Max Verstappen, who also had a safety car incident, brushing into the tail of Lance Stroll’s Williams, which led to his Red Bull’s front wing falling off.
But the young Dutchman maintained his speed in the closing laps to stay ahead of fourth-placed Sebastien Vettel in the surviving Ferrari.
The two Red Bulls started alongside each other on the third row of the grid and ran identical one-stop strategies and were battling Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in the initial stages.
There was drama from the start, with Haas driver Romain Grosjean spinning on Turn 3 and taking out the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso.
But apart from some spirited dices behind the leading quintet, it was a rather boring event.
Ricciardo blamed his blunder on unfamiliarity with his upgraded Red Bull, saying his first race with the new car was a bit of a handful.
“There were moments where the car was really fast but it was just too difficult to get it every lap,” he said.
“It was fast when you were able to pull it all together, but it wasn’t easy. I would describe it as on a knife edge and I was struggling to keep it together.”
The TV cameras missed the incident, but some late footage showed the Red Bull’s tail swing out after Ricciardo accelerated too hard on cold medium tyres after the re-start.
“Fortunately there were no walls, but it put me in no-man’s land,” he said.
Team principal Christian Horner said the spin cost Ricciardo about 12 seconds, but he felt the third and fifth places were positives.
Sixth place was taken by Danish driver Kevin Magnussen in the Haas, followed by Carlos Sainz (Renault), Fernando Alonso (McLaren), Sergio Perez in the Force India and rising new star Charles Leclerc in the Sauber-Alfa Romeo.
All had intense battles throughout the race and were a much better spectacle than the procession up front.
Next race is at Monaco on May 27 and the tight roads of the principality should be one of Red Bull’s best chances of success.