The Chinese GP was always going to be a tactical race, thanks to Pirelli's variation of tyre choices - the ultrasofts, softs and mediums - and that together with an incident on the 30th lap between the two Toro Rossos, delivered the dramatic victory to Ricciardo.
The second Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after a hard race, with the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettelonly eighth after a mid-race collision with Max Verstappen's Red Bull.
Red Bull pit wall management masterfully pitted Mr. Ricciardo during the safety auto, giving their driver the advantage of fresh tires in the bunched up field.
"I was in no-man's land today", Hamilton said after the race. "It felt like we should have had the victory, but not today".
Fate decreed otherwise, however, in what became an extraordinary race. This incident had a significant impact on the rest of the race, as the shards of carbon fibre that were left strewn across the track caused the safety auto to be deployed on lap 32.
Ricciardo and Verstappen were not early contenders but the deployment of the safety vehicle on the 32nd of 56 laps, after the Toro Rosso pair Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley collided and left debris on track, swung the race Red Bull's way.
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Bottas acknowledged Mercedes still "has work to do".
Thinking quickly, Red Bull immediately called both their drivers in for new tires. "That is racing. These things happen". Also newly shod, Verstappen was looking punchy too, and tried a move on Hamilton down the outside of turn two. But they missed the chance, and it ruled their man out of contention for the win. Hamilton asked testily. When the race resumed on the 36th lap, it had a very different complexion. He almost got it on the 39th lap, but as the wold champion hung tough the Dutchman ran wide, crucially losing a place to his team-mate, who had seen it coming. The Finn made a mistake with small lock-up soon after Ricciardo was into second, and nose-to-tail with the Mercedes.
The top six drivers held their positions at the restart, with Bottas soon establishing a two-second lead over Vettel. He overtook the German on the 42nd lap, and then came the other big drama of the race.
In his typical all in bid for the podium, the Mr. Verstappen saw room where there was none, and spun out Mr. Vettel at the hairpin on lap 43.
Only a minor miracle by his hard-pressed mechanics allowed him to qualify sixth, putting Ricciardo in the right place at the right time to capitalise on the safety auto that swung the race Red Bull's way.
"It was hectic", he said. At that point I knew that we had a auto to win and I wasn't going to be satisfied until I was in the lead. "When we heard about the Safety Car I was in Turn 14 and they said, 'Come, come, in the box, we are double stopping again.' It was very decisive, the winning move from the team". "It is disappointing. We gave it everything we had", said Hamilton's teammate Bottas. Every win I've had seems to have been in similar circumstances, and it was insane but a lot of fun!