Daniel Ricciardo swaps one problem for another with AT04 weakness exposed

Michelle Foster
Daniel Ricciardo smiles as he walks through the paddock ahead of his F1 return with AlphaTauri at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Daniel Ricciardo smiles as he walks through the paddock ahead of his F1 return with AlphaTauri at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Rejoining AlphaTauri ahead of the summer break, Daniel Ricciardo has swapped rear-end weakness for front-end grip with the AT04.

Ricciardo walked away from Formula 1 at the end of last season, at least a position on the grid, with the Aussie opting for a year on the sidelines as Red Bull’s reserve driver as he looked to regain his mojo after his numerous rear-end problems at McLaren.

Declaring his struggles “started there”, he may have swapped that for front-end troubles at AlphaTauri.

Daniel Ricciardo felt ‘limited’ at Spa

Arguably the slowest car on the grid, AlphaTauri introduced a raft of upgrades ahead of Ricciardo’s second-round debut with the team at this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

It was a solid although not spectacular outing for the Aussie who out-qualified his team-mate Yuki Tsunoda but fell short of the points in 13th place.

Fast forward a week and racing at Spa, Ricciardo felt the limitations of the AT04 as he struggled with front-end grip throughout the grand prix.

That meant that even though he battled the Haas team-mates and was at one point knocking on the door of a top-ten result, he finished down in 16th place while Tsunoda scored a point.

“I felt quite, let’s say, limited in terms of pace,” Ricciardo told media including PlanetF1.com at Spa.

“I think even in clear air I was struggling a lot. Honestly, just getting the front [end], all through the middle sector, all the high speed [sections], I was just washing, washing [out].

“It was probably not that we weren’t turning the tyres on, but probably just not producing enough grip, and then I was sliding and overheating really quickly.

“In clear air, we didn’t break away from the pack, we couldn’t. It felt like they were able to get more out of their tyres early. So then I was normally getting overtaken, while we all had fresh tyres.

“And then when it settled, I’d have a bit better pace but stuck behind them. And then obviously, we know that’s not good for tyres as well. So a bit of a tough race.

“I don’t want to be too discouraged, it was our only dry session all weekend, so it could be something simple with set-up, we went the wrong way, and that’s that. But yeah, I just wish I could have been able to attack a little more.

“I was always around cars that were really quick on the straight as well. So I was watching a lot of gearboxes today. People have gearboxes as like mantlepieces in their house. It’s not really my thing, so I don’t need to see any more!”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 2023: Head-to-head qualifying and race stats between team-mates

Ranked: The 10 best F1 driver pairings of the 21st century

He added: “For me, I didn’t feel like the car was on,” he said. “So even for the given downforce I felt like with a new tyre we weren’t really getting that peak out of it.

“And I wasn’t really feeling it kind of bite and load up. So that’s probably the thing where we’ll obviously try to understand where we missed.

“Especially with the rain all weekend, the track felt green, it did feel like it was pretty average conditions. The race pace felt quite slow. So all these things probably contribute. It’s all learning.

“I think as well I’m always going to be quite hard on myself. But I shouldn’t be expecting the world at the moment. It’s all learning, but hopefully, we’ll get a few more answers.”

Read next: The day Oscar Piastri sent Formula 1 into epic Twitter meltdown