Daniil Kvyat was left to ponder what might have been in Mexico City on Sunday as he narrowly missed out on a podium spot.
The Red Bull Racing man was running a comfortable third behind the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton before Sebastian Vettel’s crash brought out the safety car to bunch up the field.
With Valtteri Bottas’ powerful Williams now right behind, Kvyat was left helpless as the Finn cruised past down the main straight to snatch the final podium place, demoting the Russian to fourth ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Until that point, Kvyat had looked every bit worthy of a post-race trophy, running a controlled pace behind the Mercedes pair, easily having the pace over his rivals behind.
Ricciardo meanwhile was part of a first corner incident with former team-mate Vettel when the pair wanted the same piece of road, resulting in a puncture for the German, while Ricciardo dropped to fifth in the melee.
Vettel’s crash would ultimately come back to haunt Kvyat and cost him a place on the podium, though fourth place on a track thought to be conquered by the more powerful cars has given the Russian heart with two races of the season remaining.
“As a team I think today we did a perfect job, scoring solid points from a solid race,” he said. “The podium was very close and we were fighting until the end, but on the restart after the safety car we didn’t have enough pace on the straight and Williams went full bananas, so Bottas passed me quite easily.
“It was a shame about not getting on the podium, I thought we had it and we deserved it today, and maybe without the safety car we would have, but that’s racing and we have to accept it. The race was still fantastic though; good racing, good controlled laps and I’m happy with how all 71 laps went.
“We’ve been very strong this weekend and the track has suited us quite well. I think this weekend showed we can be champions if we get back on the path. I believe in this team, I believe in us and I believe in our future.”
And team boss Christian Horner said he felt for his young charge, missing out on what would have been his second podium finish of the season.
He said: “It was a great shame for Dany to miss out on a podium finish today. He had done everything right.
“Unfortunately, the safety car, which came out in the closing stages of the race bunched up the field and, given the straight line speed advantage of the Williams over our cars, it effectively gave Bottas a free pass to get in front of Dany.”
Ricciardo followed his team-mate home in fifth, though admitted he didn’t have the most eventful time in the cockpit.
He said: “It was a bit of a frustrating race. During the first stint with the options we weren’t really quick enough. With the prime I thought I had really good pace, but once I caught the Williams I couldn’t pass them.
“We lost a lot of time there and in hindsight, when the safety car came out, I would have liked to put the primes on as I felt I was a lot more competitive with them than with the options.
“Maybe it would have given us a better chance of getting to the podium.
“I wouldn’t say we were all that quick today, but to get both cars in the top five is okay.”