Daniel Ricciardo is said to be facing a brutal reality check when he steps into the AlphaTauri AT04, one that could scupper his chances of landing a Red Bull race-seat.
Red Bull announced earlier this week that Ricciardo would return to racing at the Hungarian Grand Prix with the Red Bull reserve driver loaned out to AlphaTauri for the rest of the season, the Honey Badger replacing the ousted Nyck de Vries.
The smiles, though, may not last very long as it’s not the Red Bull RB19 with its “insane” rear end, as Lewis Hamilton put it, that Ricciardo will be racing, the car he tested at Silverstone this week, it’s the AT04 with all its evident weaknesses.
Daniel Ricciardo and the AT04 weakness
One of which was Ricciardo’s downfall during his two seasons with McLaren.
The late-breaking Aussie, known for his dashing passes, wasn’t able to put in a repeat performance while racing for McLaren due to a lack of confidence in corner entry due to rear-end weakness.
He explained to the Beyond the Grid podcast last season that it “all starts there.
“If you struggle with a corner on the exit, normally it’s a product of what’s happened through the corner that’s put you in a position of, let’s say, difficulty on the exit.
“Most difficulties start on the entry. Maybe not all, but most.”
That, worryingly for Ricciardo, is a problem he’s going to have again when he puts in the laps at the Hungaroring with AlphaTauri’s head of trackside engineering Jonathan Eddolls acknowledging that it is one of the AT04’s weaknesses.
“The late entry, let’s say rear instability, which was the bigger weakness, that’s the area we’ve been working on,” FoxSports quotes Eddolls as having said.
“We have improved it, but it’s still a weakness, I would say.
“With the late entry, and with that part being a weakness, to try to address that, you end up making other areas of the car slower.
“For example, let’s say you wanted to add aero balance for high-speed, which improves the balance but also gives you more load.
“If your low-speed entry is a limitation, that can limit how much flap or aero balance you can add. So, a weakness in one area can actually have implications everywhere.
“Obviously we’re trying to find a compromise that gives us globally the best lap time. But that’s the trade-off that we’re doing each week really.”
A trade-off that hasn’t worked well up until now with AlphaTauri scoring just two points in the first 10 races of the championship leaving them bottom of the log. The team trails ninth-placed Williams by seven points.
Given that Ricciardo wasn’t able to resolve the issue nor find a proper work-around at McLaren, it remains to be seen whether the eight-time grand prix winner can elevate AlphaTauri up the order.