Ricciardo had been told earlier in the race not to pass Norris when clearly quicker, and when Norris closed the gap to Ricciardo with just a handful of laps to go, he was instructed to do the same.
“I could have (passed him), I was alongside into Turn 1. And it was a tough decision whether to really do it or not,” he told motorsport.com.
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The papaya pair finished line astern in eighth and ninth. It was Ricciardo’s first finish in the points since the Australian Grand Prix.
Before the race, McLaren split their strategies between the two cars – Ricciardo started on the hard tyres, while Norris started on the mediums.
Towards the end of the first stint, Ricciardo loomed up on the back of Norris before being told to hold station by his team until Norris pitted shortly after.
It left Ricciardo vulnerable to the charging AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.
A well-timed Virtual Safety Car to clear from harm’s way the busted HAAS of Kevin Magnussen would allow Ricciardo a cheap pitstop to leapfrog Norris.
“There was one lap just before I boxed that Daniel could have overtaken me, and didn’t. I think he was told just to defend to (Pierre) Gasly pretty much until I boxed, but I boxed the next lap,” Norris said.
“So there was one lap he stayed behind me, and I guess the return favour for him just not overtaking me was for me not to overtake him.”
Norris questioned the call over team radio, stating while the decision to have Ricciardo stay behind made sense at the time because of the strategy, he was potentially being asked to compromise his finishing position.
Ricciardo said he could have “easily” passed Norris had he not been told to stay behind.
“Early in the race I was in his DRS and I lifted, I didn’t pass when I easily could have,” Ricciardo said.
“At the end I think he was in my DRS and he was probably the same, he probably could have passed me with a lap or two to go. So I guess it was just a favour was returned.”
Despite the points finish, stronger points finishes from Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso meant Ricciardo fell two spots to 13th in the championship with 15 points. Norris sits seventh with 50 points.
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