Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Sepang International Circuit, 2016

2016 F1 season driver rankings #1: Ricciardo

2016 F1 season review

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Comfortably the most successful non-Mercedes driver this year, Daniel Ricciardo won just once in 2016 but was owed at least two more.

Daniel Ricciardo

Beat team mate in qualifying 15/21
Beat team mate in race 10/18
Races finished 21/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate 572/1137
Points 256

Red Bull weren’t on Ferrari’s pace at the beginning of the season until Renault introduced an engine upgrade at Monaco. Nonetheless Riccairdo took the fight to the red cars and impressed by beating them to a place on the front row in China. He was leading when a tyre let go.

That meant it was the other Red Bull, in Daniil Kvyat’s hands, which reached the podium first. But Kvyat lost his role as Ricciardo’s team mate after badly compromising his race in Russia. This turned out to be Ricciardo’s only point-less race in a season where he never failed to see the chequered flag.

In Spain he hit the front when the Mercedes drivers took each other off. But with Red Bull anxious to cover off the threat from Ferrari’s two-strategy approach Ricciardo ended up a distinctly unimpressed fourth. His frustration deepened in Monaco, where he dominated the weekend but lost the win when his team fluffed a tyre change.

Throughout the season Ricciardo’s strongest card was his qualifying performance. It wasn’t until Silverstone that he qualified behind his team mate, and he ended the year with a combined 15-6 margin over Verstappen and Kvyat.

As Red Bull replaced Ferrari as the second-quickest team, Ricciardo took the fight to Mercedes when the opportunity presented itself. He grabbed second in Germany (thanks in part to team orders) and split the Mercedes in Singapore.

It took until Malaysia for Ricciardo to claim an overdue first win of 2016. This was a showcase not only of his one-lap performance – he got through Q1 on medium compound tyres, saving fresh softer rubber for the race – but his racecraft, as he shrugged off a fierce attack from his team mate.

There’s no doubt Ricciardo will face an increased challenge from the occupant of the other Red Bull seat next year. Verstappen was a more potent threat in the final races of 2016. Ricciardo will have to dig deep to maintain his superiority next year.

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Over to you

Definitely the standout driver of 2016. His bad weekends were still seven-out-of-ten. His worst is ridiculously high and he definitely stepped up when challenged by a very promising young driver. The smiling assassin is my choice for driver of the season.

What’s your verdict on Daniel Ricciardo’s 2016 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

Add your views on the other drivers here:

The F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings are produced by referring to:

View race-by-race notes on Daniel Ricciardo

Australia – Made it into Q3 but was unable to beat any of the other cars. Hulkenberg passed him at the start but Ricciardo produced a surprise attack at turn three on lap four to regain the place. He rose as high as second place after the stoppage while running on soft tyres, but his final pit stop dropped him out of the podium places. He took Massa for fourth place.

Bahrain – A stellar qualifying lap saw Ricciardo claim fifth place on the grid despite having the fifth-slowest car in a straight line (albeit the fastest Renault). He tried to take advantage of the turn one chaos but ended up hitting Bottas with his front wing. The team elected not to change it – another indication the RB12 generates prodigious amounts of downforce. A very early change to soft tyres allowed him to use the undercut to his advantage throughout the rest of the race, and brought the car home a fine fourth once again.

China – Ricciardo fancied Red Bull’s chances of taking a Ferrari or Mercedes scalp if it rained during qualifying, but beating both SF16-Hs in the dry was an outstanding performance. He took the lead at the start thanks to his super-soft tyres but they let him down two laps later – a puncture forcing him into the pits. The appearance of the Safety Car moments later was a double-whammy. But a feisty drive through the field eventually yielded fourth place. Crucially he kept Hamilton behind early on then passed the Mercedes with a gutsy move at turn six.

Russia – Tested the Aeroscreen on Friday morning then got on with a typical programme, ending up within three tenths of a second of Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Red Bull didn’t appear to have the one-lap pace to beat Williams and Ricciardo duly lined up behind both of them. Contact from Vettel by way of Kvyat at the start left him with a badly damaged floor. A gamble on medium tyres didn’t work out ad he finished 12th after a second pit stop.

Spain – Responded perfectly to the challenge of his new team mate in qualifying, using just a single lap in Q3 to put him comfortably in the shade. It’s hard to see what more he could have done in the race as Red Bull’s strategy decision made the difference between the two drivers.

Monaco – Signalled Red Bull’s potential on Thursday, demonstrated it on Saturday with the first pole position of his career, and led masterfully in the wet conditions on Sunday. But for the second race in a row a win got away from him and the blame lay back in the pits – this time with his crew who failed to get his tyres out on time for his final pit stop. On his in-lap Ricciardo had been over two seconds quicker than Hamilton in the middle sector so this was a clear victory opportunity blown.

Canada – After Friday he said he’d be content to get within half a second of Mercedes in qualifying. He managed that with another superb lap. At the start he left Verstappen plenty of room at turn one but paid the price as they came out of the second corner and found Rosberg’s car in front of them. His first pit stop dropped him behind Raikkonen, compromising his strategy, and a lock-up meant he had to make an early second pit stop.

Europe – After being the first to hit a barrier on Friday he bounced back on Saturday, grabbing a spot on the front row by matching Vettel’s lap time to within a thousandth of a second but doing so moments before the Ferrari driver, putting him ahead. However Red Bull’s low downforce set-up meant they struggled with their tyres in the race and both drivers had to pit twice, dropping backwards.

Austria – Only had time for a single lap on slicks at the end of Q3 and although he produced a good effort Red Bull clearly missed an opportunity. Verstappen got ahead of him on lap two but Ricciardo lacked his team mate’s pace, particularly after the Safety Car period. He passed Button for fifth but wasn’t close enough to take advantage of Rosberg’s penalty.

Britain – Out-qualified by his team mate for the first time this year, Ricciardo reckoned Verstappen had found a faster way through the slow Vale chicane. He made an early switch to intermediates but lost out because of the Virtual Safety Car and had to catch and pass Perez. Appeared to be the highest-placed driver who did not go off during the race.

Hungary – Got within two-tenths of Hamilton in qualifying and beat his team mate and felt he would have been close to Rosberg’s pole time without the yellow flag. A rapid start allowed him to briefly split the Mercedes but he got boxed in behind Hamilton, allowing Rosberg through. An aggressively early second stop proved an unsuccessful attempt to get back ahead, and left him running a long, 37-lap stint to the end under constant pressure from Vettel.

Germany – Beating either of the Mercedes didn’t seem possible but Ricciardo got within four tenths of a second of them in qualifying. Gained a place from Rosberg at the start but lost one to his team mate. Nonetheless Ricciardo’s pace on the super-softs was better, and it could have been an interesting fight between the pair had Red Bull not needed to ensure both stayed ahead of Rosberg. Ricciardo’s path to second place was therefore made easier than it might have been, but both Red Bull drivers did well to capitalise on Rosberg’s problems.

Belgium – With Red Bull diverging on strategies Ricciardo lined up fifth behind the Ferraris and Verstappen but on the soft tyres. Once that trio took itself out of contention he occupied third but struggled for pace due to front wing damage. Red Bull were able to rectify this under the Safety Car and give him a free pit stop. From then on his pace was good, often a match for Rosberg’s in the final stint, and he delivered second place.

Italy – Both Red Bull drivers tried to get through Q2 on the soft tyres but couldn’t make it. Ricciardo was one-thousandth of a second off beating Bottas to fifth. Choosing to run super-softs for his final stint gave him a chance to pass the Williams, but he had a narrow window of opportunity during which the Red Bull’s braking advantage was bigger enough to make it possible, and he came from an enormous distance back to complete a remarkable move.

Singapore – A rapid time in Q1 raised hopes another pole position would be possible but he had to settle for second place behind Rosberg. He gave chase to the Mercedes all race long, especially when he had a chance to attack in the closing stint. Finishing less than half a second behind the Mercedes, it was clear he’d left nothing on the table.

Japan – Both Red Bull drivers had their qualifying simulations on Saturday interrupted by a Virtual Safety Car period. Ricciardo said a gradual loss of engine power impaired his qualifying effort, but he was promoted to fourth by the Ferrari drivers’ penalties. That was a mixed blessing as he started directly behind Hamilton, whose own slow getaway compromised Ricciardo. He made life more difficult by going off at Spoon at the beginning of his second stint. His final pit stop was both slow and too late to prevent Raikkonen demoting him to sixth.

Malaysia – Felt his tyres beginning to go in the final sector during his qualifying lap, and ultimately was beaten to third by Verstappen. However he saved an untouched set of soft tyres by getting through Q1 having only run mediums. He fit them for the final stint having brilliantly shrugged off an attack from Verstappen, who was on much fresher rubber.

United States – Split the Mercedes on Friday and lined up behind them on Saturday, the highest-placed driver to run the super-soft tyre at the start. That paid off as he got ahead of Rosberg and did everything he could to stay there until the Virtual Safety Car thwarted his efforts.

Mexico – Red Bull had a low-key Friday but Ricciardo was the quicker of the pair. Verstappen beat him in qualifying, however, as Ricciardo was perplexed by his car’s handling. He took advantage of the Safety Car to pit on the first lap and get rid of his super-softs, and although he worked his way speedily through traffic he wasn’t able to use the time gained to jump either of the Mercedes. He let Verstappen through when asked which proved prudent, as he caught his team mate and Vettel at the end of the race and their penalties eventually allowed him to take third.

Brazil – Another driver who felt he had erred on the conservative side on his final run in qualifying. Ricciardo caught a tough break when he fell foul of the little-used rule on pit lane closures having failed to spot the warning boards in poor visibility. He was also struggling with his visor leaking in the closing stages which partly explains why Verstappen made such better progress over the final stint.

Abu Dhabi – There was little to choose between the Red Bulls on Friday – Ricciardo was just one-thousandth off Verstappen – but the gap to Mercedes was a greater concern for the team. Verstappen led much of qualifying but Ricciardo pulled a great lap out of the bag at the end to take ‘non-Mercedes pole’. He couldn’t hold his position at the start on super-softs, however, and despite a strong effort he failed to pass Raikkonen on the track. The team arguably slipped up by leaving him out while several of his rivals were stuck behind Verstappen. Sticking with the two-stopper limited his points-scoring opportunities to fifth place.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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121 comments on “2016 F1 season driver rankings #1: Ricciardo”

  1. Good choice

    1. I would have had him 2nd behind Hamilton.

      Daniel is good, but Max made him look ordinary in some races, and outperformed him in the latter stages of the season. Daniel seems to lack race pace in comparison to his teammate and seems a little less comfortable in the wet.

      IMO, Dan should be doing better against a teenage driver, new to F1 and the team.

      Team bosses placed Hamilton first, Riccirado below him.

      1. Team bosses is the only 1 that really counts, they have all the data, expertise etc.They voted Hamilton (Dan was 4th),

        Another interesting poll was SKY. Hamilton was first. This is interesting as they rate the races each weekend, so every detail is fairly captured and assessed while fresh in the memory. http://www.skysports.com/f1/news/12433/10676670/formula-1-in-2016-who-was-the-driver-of-the-f1-year

        And surprised the Red Bull poll went for Hamilton rather than one of their own boys ! http://www.redbull.com/au/en/motorsports/f1/stories/1331832086778/best-f1-drivers-2016-this-season-s-top-5-red-bull

    1. Ricciardo may have had the best year, but he is certainly not the best driver in the world. Lewis would rub the floor with him, and Max challenged him enough this year despite only coming into the car mid season. I see Max getting the measure of him with a bit more experience.

      He is very good, but he he just seem to lack that “thing” that sets people like Max and Lewis apart. To me, he is like Jenson Button – but better.

      1. I wouldn’t say he is a worse driver than lewis, he just has a different style. less of the aggressive all out of attack of Hamilton and Verstappen and more of a clinical race management style like Vettel. If Red bull give him a car that’s marginally faster next year, he’ll spend most of the season looking at the field in his rear view mirrors.

        1. I agree. I don’t think Hamilton would rub the floor with him. He would probably give Hamilton a run for his money. His style of driving is st least as fast in race pace. Maybe not qualifying.

      2. the point of your comment related to the article is? You said it yourself, he had the best year

        The rest, you can speculate all you want, we just don’t know it yet

      3. @kbdavies

        Ricciardo may have had the best year, but he is certainly not the best driver in the world.

        A statement which does not contradict @keithcollantine‘s ranking.

      4. I don’t know why people make Lewis out to be perfect. He has never been the complete package of a driver over a season.
        I would love to see Ricciardo in a season long fight for the championship. I think he’s mentally tougher.

        1. He has never been the complete package of a driver over a season.

          True. And can you name one driver who has? Or does that standard only apply to Lewis?

          1. @kbdavies – MSC in 2002 comes to mind. 17 races, 17 podiums, 11 wins, 7 poles, 5 fastest laps, nearly doubled his teammate’s points, nearly tripled his nearest non-Ferrari competitor.

            But no, it doesn’t apply only to Lewis.

          2. @kbdavies
            Senna in 1991, Schumacher in 2000, Alonso in 2006, Vettel in 2013. Just a few examples of championship-winning seasons more complete than anything Lewis has had.

      5. petebaldwin (@)
        16th December 2016, 15:10

        @kbdavies – My rankings for “driver of the season” and “best driver in the field” would be very different to be fair.

        If you are a weaker driver but manage to perform on a par with your teammate who is a much stronger driver, you have had a better season than them in my opinion.

        1. Very few can say it, mostly when overachieving in a lesser car: Senna in 1993, Schumacher in 1996, Alonso in 2012…

      6. You are correct, I’m not sure how one could actually derive who is the best driver in the world. So many types of disciplines.
        But to your point, the best driver in Formula 1 this year is Rosberg, he has the Trophy to prove it. Everything else is just opinions and debate… which is what draws us all here.

      7. Disagreed. I could totally see him challenge Lewis and be pretty much head to head with him, similar to Fernando in 2007.

        1. DANRIC is currently the best and most consistant all round driving package in F1…he just goes about his business with no fuss and very rarely makes mistakes..every team in paddock would love to have him…it is a no brainer he was no 1, RB got the best out of Dan, though it wasn’t a 2 way street… Dan got some awful pit calls right up to the race…

      8. Kb davies read what you said…Lewis wiped the floor with him and max….Lewis was in a 1sec faster car and lost to his teammate?????? U understand F1?

      9. @kbdavies

        I agree

        its become clear too that Max is RedBull’s number 1 driver, he gets the better strategy and really showed his mental agility when he backed Seb into Dan, eventually securing Dan the 3rd place. Dan is good, Max is better, RedBull have again decided the Aus is number 2.

        1. The fictional story about number 1 and 2 drivers at RBR should stop.
          Split Strategy always result in the danger one of the two will do worse.

  2. I’m not convinced on his number one ranking.
    I think he isn’t all that great considering the competition from Max.
    Then again, we may be considering drinking out of a shoe, in that regard, he stands apart from his rivals.

    1. Danny had a great year, having to really step up mid season, but in the last few races he was somewhat underwhelming. 8th in Brazil, while Max was 3rd and coming from behind, in Abu Dhabi 5th while Max was 4th and coming from last after first corner.

      I’m a big fan of Danny RIC, but personally i was a bit let down by his late season performances, maybe he lost a bit of motivation or maybe VES finally got familiar with the car.

      1. in my opinion you ricciboy are about the biggest craplog of the entire field, if you admit time and time again to UP your game only , after a worthy partner is coming in , you ricciboy have been embazzling your entire team and should be sacked or at least be demoted to torro rosso .

        1. OK, that is one way of looking at it.

          You could certainly say (though I wouldn’t agree) that his remarks about upping his game reflects that he goofed off in the early parts of the season. You could also see the same remarks as reflecting an increased insight in how he functions and the brains and maturity to acknowledge that and act then act on it.

          But then again, I tend to be more impressed with drivers that display a brainy approach to drivning rather than “mere” talent.

          1. @Bob C

            I tend to be more impressed with drivers that display a brainy approach

            like Max or Lewis then.

        2. Please, we don’t need uneducated comments like yours in forums such as these.

          1. +1 Totally agree !

        3. Henker come back in here in a few more years when your testes have decended…

        4. Henker you have a frankfurter protruding from your forehead

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      16th December 2016, 14:11

      The issue with Ricciardo is relatively slow race pace. There were a few instances where Max showed that and it was very evident at Monaco.

      1. It’s very clear that IMO Red Bull have possibly the best driver pairing in F1 at the moment. They both work well together and respect each other suitably to allow for good track practice…

        They both bounce very well off each other and use the momentum of each other to improve and motivate. This sort rivalry did not show with Ric and Kvy, but, by Ric’s own admission, Ves pushed him to find additional speed (which in itself is a sign of a top driver).

        There are indications that Ves maybe the number 1 RBR driver, but, by the same measure, also indications they are considered by the team as on the same step. This position is very well deserved by Ricciardo and Verstappen should be number 2, both have had a stunning season.

  3. Hm, not sure what to make of it. Was Daniel the stand out driver this year?

    He certainly started to get ramped up once he got a competative teammate with Max Verstappen. But until then I was actually disappointed with his first few races. And not just because of the car not being up to it.

    Yes, he could have won Monaco, and it got ruined by the team strategy and then messing up that stop on top of it. But it was Hamilton who told his team he wanted to stay out, Daniel went along with his team, and to me that was what did the trick, the botched stop only amplified it.

  4. Good. Fully deserved it, fantastic season. Outperformed Max more often than not, dealt with the pressure easily and got a fantastic win in Malaysia, which he deserved after the team lost him wins at Spain and Monaco.

  5. I’d say this is roughly fair. But I would really like to dispell this myth that he had some sort of flawless, consistent season. The amount of lacklustre races: Australia, Canada, Baku, Silverstone, Austria, Suzuka, Interlagos, Abu Dhabi. 8 races in which he was far from special. Yes, he didn’t make many mistakes. Yes, he upped his games significantly. Yes, his qualifying was impressive. But by the end of the season, Verstappen was firmly ahead, as this review quite rightly states. So, let’s not be too revisionist about Ricciardo, his season was good, but really, if he is number one and Hamilton two and Verstappen three and Rosberg five, it goes to show just how high the level of the field is right now (or, considering the amount of mistakes Hamilton and Verstappen made and the lacklustre races from Ricciardo and Rosberg, perhaps, how bad it is?!).

    1. Agree. Also he lucked into a 3rd in Mexico. He did deserve the win in Malaysia but he also lucked into the win too.

      1. not sure about the win in Malaysia, Max was on a different tyre strategy, they could have easily let him out without a pitstop, making RIC have to do the overtaking for the win. He might have done it on track, but RB chose to stack them together in the VSC period with 10 laps before the end, but with a big difference: RIC got fresh Softs, while VES only had used ones (due to his 1 more stop strategy).

      2. Jamie you fail to mention tmonaco spain and awful team calls like the last race

    2. Verstappen was NOT firmly ahead of Ricciardo, the review did not say that, it said Verstappen was a more potent threat.

      1. The Verstappen review did, and it also did to anyone with eyes.

    3. @hahostolze
      I agree, you could make a case for any of the top five. I think Keith gave it to Ricciardo in the end because of how he was cheated out of a couple of wins (Monaco and Spain). His performance did clearly drop off relative to Verstappen at the end of the year though.

      1. @George I don’t accept the premise that Ricciardo was robbed of a Spain win. His was clearly the preferable strategy, he didn’t manage to make it work that way. That’s not robbery.

      2. He was definately not robbed in Spain. The strategy RIC and VET chose was faster on paper, and the fact that VES on his first race in a RB managed the tyres so well was exceptional, making the strategy with more stops losing out just barely in the end. It’s the same with Verstappen in Malaysia, you could say he was robbed too.

  6. Ok, so for Ric you highlight all his strong performances, but make no mention of his poor performances at Silverstone, Canada, Austria, Japan, Brazil, Baku…. really???

    1. See the ‘race-by-race notes’ for those.

      1. But yet in the Lewis piece, you highlighted his poor performances.

        1. Yes it’s like Ric’s errors, poor starts and bad weekends get airbrushed out of history. I don’t think ‘see the race-by-race notes’ is an answer tbh @keithcollantine. Not that he isn’t a lovely guy and everything, but if they were set side by side with Hamilton’s and Rosberg’s I think we’d see most errors from NR, then DR then LH.

    2. what is it with people like you? this is a ranking over the course of a season, rankings like this take into account overall performance, and don’t simply look at negatives like people like you do.

      1. Read the Hamilton piece and you’ll see it was more focused on his bad starts as opposed to his overall performance.

        Attack my comment, don’t try and attack me. Because you’re guilty of the very same thing you’re accusing me off.

        Thank you.

        1. I also thought this, given that Lewis was placed second overall you would expect his article to try and sell that position but no it basically focusses on the bad parts of his season with very little mention of the good, if you knew nothing about F1 you’d read that article and think why is this guy ranked as number 2 he doesn’t sound very good where as this article is heavily focussed around why Ricciardo is perceived to be number 1.

          I suspect it was the result of not wanting to come across as a biased british LH fan given the hatred there is for him in this place but it has gone too far the other way imo.

          I disagree with Ricciardo being number 1 but then I don’t really know who I would put there in his place, there really wasn’t a driver who stood out over the course of the season for me it was a very “Meh” season in terms of stand out performances – Many drivers had some truely awesome moments but then those same drivers had some absolutely dire ones aswell.

          1. Many drivers had some truely awesome moments but then those same drivers had some absolutely dire ones aswell.

            No driver is perfect, and it’s the way it should be when the competition is strong. If a flawless performance would come from a driver, then it would be in a season where he had an utterly dominant car and no oposition from his team-mate… But who’d want to see such boring season?

    3. @kgn11 thank you for pointing this out!

      It is obvious people hate on Hamilton, and it’s sometimes
      Funny how they poopoo on Hamilton for being grim after losing s race, accusing him of acting “entitled”, then they give riciardo heaps of praise (post Monaco was EMBARASSING!), while saying riciardo was owed two more wins…

      We know you guys like his smile, but damn! Such bias!

  7. well deserved. best qualifyier in F1 – as shown by average gap to teammate, great in races, should have had all 3 wins that Mercedes did not get (got 1, lost 2 because of team errors). consistently quicker then teammate, very few mistakes, amazing passes – Ricciardo drove like a world champion. put him in a championship winning car like a Mercedes and he wont only be a champion, but a great champion.

    1. sorry, this is simply not true. RIC was certainly not consistently faster than Max. And Max was the one with the most overtaking. He might as well two races can win if the team does not he had made a second pit stop in Malaysia. RIC made fewer mistakes. That’s true. But put RIC in the winning car alongside Lewis and Max, he will not just be the World Champion

      1. Most overtaking, another useless stat. Either means your racecraft, starting, etc is TERRIBLE or your qualifying is as bad. Otherwise who would you be overtaking??

        1. Jamie you fail to mention monaco spain and awful team calls like the last race

  8. Ricciardo’s gift is, besides decent qualifying and respectable racecraft, spinning the media into thinking every early or mid-race opportunity for him would have been a guaranteed win, if not for… strategy.. pitstop error… Etc. Love most of his driving, but I was not so impressed with his self-victimisation after spain/monaco.

    1. agree on this, I was also not very impressed with his interviews post race Mexico and the fact he inherited a podium finish in the end.

    2. Then you weren’t impressed with Lewis in 2015 at the same venue either? I think its clear ricciardo lost the race in monaco this year purely thanks to that pitstop and i thought his reaction was full of dignity, other drivers would react in a worse way to be honest.

  9. Ricciardo was my number 1. He wasn’t spectacular in every race but he was quick and consistent and did it with a smile.

  10. Ricci rocks! I enjoy to watch how smooth he is behind the weel, reminds me of Jackie Stewart…

  11. We will see if he can cope with a pressing, only then to pic up #1.
    And the pressing is only when you are closer to WDC and you have at least 1 contender from another team.

  12. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    16th December 2016, 13:54

    Lewis had a lot more issues than any driver in F1 this season – starts, engines, settings, unexpected collisions from his teammate. Even at Monaco where he made a super call and had super pace to beat Daniel, Mercedes nearly fumbled it.

    Ricciardo was good, Lewis was absolutely stellar and at Monaco the difference between Lewis and Daniel was as clear as the difference between Messi and Lewandowski. Of course, Lewandowski is one of the best but Messi he is not…

    Oh yes, yes, I forgot, Lewis hit the wall at Baku!!! He can’t be #1… Well, Messi’s hit the post quite a few times too. It happens guys…