Max Verstappen isn't the only driver bringing the spoils to Red Bull in 2023 – Daniel Ricciardo's Mexican exploits could land his employers millions of dollars.
The honey badger looked like his smiley self from his race-winning glory years last weekend at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez on track and in the paddock.
Quick and consistent laps helped Ricciardo reach P4 in qualifying, and the pearly whites and wry smile appeared in every interview the Australian made.
It's no surprise, really, with the man himself happily admitting that "It's definitely more fun fighting at the front."
Ricciardo on top of the AlphaTauri pile
Ricciardo's final finishing position of P7 represents AlphaTauri's best effort all year, and he's achieved it in just his fourth start in the AT04.
For comparison, Nyck de Vries never challenged the top 10, super-rookie Liam Lawson scored one P9 in his five races, and Tsunoda's 2023 PB was the P8 at the USGP.
In other words, three drivers managed 10 championship points across 34 race weekends, while Ricciardo has six from four.
These may sound like low figures, but for AlphaTauri, they represent sizeable eight-figure sums.
The Faenza-based team have found themselves rooted to the bottom of the constructors' championship standings since the Canadian Grand Prix in June.
Some 134 days later, Ricciardo's Mexico City GP result has vaulted them up to P8, leapfrogging Haas and Alfa Romeo in one single Sunday drive.
The finer points of F1's prize money distribution are unknown, but most estimations agree there are many additional millions for each position gained in the final standings.
After previous wooden spoon winners Williams advanced up the order in 2023, there are effectively no backmarkers destined for the bottom of the pile for the other nine to gain 'free' money.
Instead, there's the upper midfield of Alpine, McLaren, and previously Aston Martin, and then Williams, AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo, and Haas making up the lower midfield.
Whether Ferrari beat Mercedes or if Aston Martin can claw back McLaren (hah!) in the constructors' standings is relatively irrelevant, with the immediate prize pool difference between P1 and P2 the same as P9 and P10.
For those in the forgotten fight at the bottom to try and take P7, though? There are tens of millions at stake.
The budgets for the teams on the lower rungs are far lower than the powerhouses up top, with the FIA not introducing the budget cap to reel in the Sauber and Haas operations.
As such, securing an additional $1m over the competition is massive, let alone $10m or more, and those are the numbers that Ricciardo could have claimed in one afternoon on the job.
Even P7-sitting Williams, now 12 points clear of P8 after a successive top-10 finish, will look nervously over their shoulders in the wake of the AT04's newfound speed.
After all, until Tsunoda's over-eagerness to overtake on Sunday, AlphaTauri looked set for a double-points finish and the largest single-race points score from any in the lower midfield.
There's no telling whether Ricciardo has the car to consistently reach Q3 and finish in the top half of the classification for points in all the remaining races. However, now he's got his team to P8, he just needs to outperform Haas and Alfa Romeo.
Unless there are significant late-season upgrade developments for these nearest rivals, it seems AlphaTauri's Singapore package, combined with their Australian driver's speed, have turned their season around just in time.
As Red Bull looks to work closer with their sister team for 2024 and the ever-mounting speculation over Sergio Perez's future, Ricciardo potentially handing millions of dollars to his benefactors adds another level of intrigue to the Milton Keynes driver drama.
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