Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 title challenge officially came to an end at the US Grand Prix on Sunday, despite the Australian’s fine drive to third place.
Lewis Hamilton’s victory meant Ricciardo would need a second place finish to take his title challenge to the penultimate round in Brazil next weekend.
But after a slow start, Ricciardo fought through the field to take the final podium spot behind Mercedes pair Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
It gave a silver lining to the weekend for Red Bull, who had little to celebrate otherwise.
Sebastian Vettel’s 2014 woes continued after he had to take his sixth engine of the season, meaning he’d have to start from the pitlane - effectively last.
Ricciardo dropped to seventh at the start, jumped by both Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso before the safety car was deployed at the end of the opening lap for an accident.
Vettel started on the harder compound tyre, but made two pit-stops under the safety car, switching onto the softer, then back onto the hards again in a bid to run to the end.
But his gamble didn’t pay off as he struggled to make ground on the field at the restart. He’d eventually have to put again in sequence with the rest of the field.
Ricciardo meanwhile was able to get the jump on both Alonso and Magnussen, battling hard with Alonso in particular to take fifth place.
At his second stop, he pitted a lap earlier than Williams’ Valtteri Bottas to leap-frog him into fourth before chasing down and passing Felipe Massa in the other Williams.
Despite his slim title chances coming to an end, Ricciardo was upbeat about finishing on the podium.
“I’m happy with that,” he said. “I could see the Mercedes for the first part of the race which was really cool, I don’t know if they were just chilling, but we seemed to have good pace.
“It was great to get ahead of the Williams and to get onto the podium.
“The start wasn’t very good, I have to put my hand up to that one, but the recovery was good so we didn’t really lose out.”
Vettel’s race got interesting in the latter stages. Pitting once more with eight laps to go, the four-time world champion dropped to 14th.
But on fresher rubber and with the bit between his teeth, fought his way back up to seventh, and was right on the tail of Alonso in sixth at the chequered flag.
He said: “We decided to go for fresh tyres with only a few laps to go, so we were in a stronger position at that point compared to others who were struggling on older tyres and the pace was better.”
The penultimate race of the season is this Sunday in Brazil before the finale in Abu Dhabi on November 23.