Daniel Ricciardo has joked that Sebastian Vettel’s farewell F1 dinner turned into an extremely late night ahead of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice.
Vettel is the centre of much attention on what will be his final Formula 1 race weekend as a racer unless he has a change of heart and makes a comeback in 2024 or beyond.
To mark the end of an F1 career that began in 2007, all 20 drivers went out for a meal together – and posed for a photograph which showed them all to be in good humour.
Ricciardo, who rarely has a smile too far from his face, displayed one of his trademark grins as he quipped after FP2 at Yas Marina that the partying – such as it could have been with important work the following day – had gone on much longer than it should have done.
The Australian was speaking after a session that was curtailed for him by an oil leak, able to run for only 14 laps – around half of most rivals – but he was still an encouraging ninth on the timesheet.
“The Fridays that go smooth are a bit easier,” said Ricciardo.
“We’ve got a few mechanical things to sort out but in terms of pace, these sort of ones are a little more comforting and we won’t be here till midnight, so that’s nice – can get some sleep because we were out till 8am with all the drivers yesterday…or this morning!”
This is, of course, Ricciardo’s last weekend with McLaren, and news had emerged earlier on Friday that he looks set to re-join Red Bull in 2023 as their third driver.
The 33-year-old would like to sign off having helped his current team bridge a 19-point gap to Alpine to finish fourth in the Constructors’ standings – and he was optimistic as a result of his practice pace at Yas Marina.
“I think it was decent,” said Ricciardo. “If this is all relative then I think we are kind of there, talking about the Alpine battle.
“I think there are a couple of tenths to find but we are in the ballpark. Obviously we’ve got to find that, but I think we are competitive to give us a bit of confidence tonight to make small changes and then hopefully find that little bit tomorrow.
“We had a small oil leak so I couldn’t do a whole lot of laps tonight, but I think the laps we did it was decent. I think we are in a reasonable place.
“I’d like to think today is kind of where it stands at the moment in terms of if we put it together in qualy, if this was the picture, we could have a chance.
“Hopefully this kind of is the lay of the land and us just moving that little bit forward tomorrow. At the end of the season nobody is probably saving anything, so I’d like to think today’s pace is fairly representative.”