Daniel Ricciardo’s famous broad grin is rarely dimmed but it was wearing thin in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi on Sunday evening.
This rare event came after his Red Bull team-mate Daniil Kvyat triggered a multiple collision that caused widespread damage on the opening lap of Sunday’s frantic Russian Grand Prix and all but wrecked the Aussie’s ambitions
The normally big-smiling Ricciardo was instead left with a furrowed brow and a smouldering sense of injustice as his run of point-scoring finishes in the season-opening races came to an end - thanks to the Russian’s impetuosity.
“We had a lot of damage and we had to pit,” said the Perth racer soon after the race.
“We went again and we thought we would try the medium compound tyres, but that wasn’t really working. The damage was just too much, really.
“We didn’t learn anything and we didn’t really find our pace. I expect an apology -- put it that way. I think he owes it to a few people out there today so let’s see…”
To his credit, the local hero Kvyat did just that even if it came long after the wild moments when, fuelled by bravado and an intrepid sense of national pride, he twice drove into the back of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
He did it initially in Turn Two when his contact sent the four-time champion German’s car into the path of Ricciardo’s Red Bull which, in turn, clipped the Force India of Mexican Sergio Perez.
Ricciardo, who had started with hopes of adding to his three straight fourth place finishes, pitted for repairs and, after rejoining, battled back to finish 11th.
Vettel, rammed twice in a matter of seconds by Kvyat, crashed into the barriers and had to retire, ending his hopes after he had started seventh on the grid following a five-place penalty for an enforced gearbox change.
Out with him on the opening lap went German Nico Hulkenberg of Force India and luckless Indonesian Rio Haryanto of Manor, both victims of the spinning carnage that affected most of the field in the incident.
Mexican Esteban Gutierrez of Haas was handed a drive-through penalty for his part in the accident while Kvyat was handed a 10-seconds stop-go penalty by the stewards. Both men later apologised, the Russian after much colourful criticism from up and down the pit lane, but notably from Ferrari.
Kvyat apologised after the race. He said he had not felt his brakes and could not see what was happening ahead of him in the main incident that left Vettel fuming with anger at the Russian for the second successive races.
“There was a bit going on,” said the Russian, whose aggression left Vettel ranting on the Ferrari team radio in a stream of profanities.
“I started to press the brake,” said Kvyat. “But there was not much in it and the first contact came from that. The second touch -- I couldn't see what was going on ahead of me and I couldn't react.
“All the mess came from me. It doesn't feel great, but sometimes this happens in F1. Usually I learn from it.
“I apologise to everyone who was involved. I think we all need to talk. It's easy to attack me and I guess everyone will and I'm OK with that…."
Kvyat’s chaos wrecked his team’s hopes in an incident filled contest won comfortably by championship leading German Nico Rosberg, ahead of his Mercedes team-mate world champion Briton Lewis Hamilton who started 10th, following another engine failure in qualifying on Saturday.
It was Rosberg’s seventh win in succession, including three last year, and he became only the fourth driver to have achieved that feat, the others being Italian Alberto Ascari and Germans Michael Schumacher and Vettel.
His win increased his lead in the drivers’ title race to 43 points ahead of Hamilton who, ironically, avoided a first lap incident for the first time this year.
Red Bull team chief Christian Horner acknowledged the mistakes made by Kvyat and apologized to Vettel, his friend and former champion driver.
“Our race was totally screwed at the first corner,” he said. “Daniil misjudged his braking and he hit the rear of Seb, who in turn hit Daniel (Ricciardo) as well.
“It was obviously a mistake from Daniil and I think he knows what happened. We could have scored some sound points today.”
Vettel was so enraged that his broadcast comments, via Ferrari team radio, were punctuated by a succession of ‘bleeps’ as he swore loudly.
The clash came just two weeks after Vettel had accused Kvyat of diving “like a torpedo” into his car at the Chinese Grand Prix.
On team radio, Vettel said: “I'm out. Crash. Somebody f**** hit me in the f**king rear in Turn Two, then someone hit me in the f**king rear again in Turn Three…. Honestly. What the f**k are we doing here?”
He later added: “In the end, these things happen, but it is harsh. The race is long. You can make progress in the first lap, but you can also end your race, which for me was the case there.
“It wasn’t my fault and there was nothing I could do different. I don't dislike him [Kvyat], I think he made a mistake two weeks ago and he did a mistake today. It is fairly obvious, but it doesn't help me…”
Kvyat’s crash-marred race was watched by a stony-faced Russian president Vladimir Putin.
His mood matched Ricciardo’s who added: “It’s a shame to be out more or less from the first lap, but these things do happen in racing. We had a lot of damage!”
His and F1’s next outing will be the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya on May 15.