Daniel Ricciardo dismisses one leading theory after Yuki Tsunoda inflicts more pain

Thomas Maher
Daniel Ricciardo, RB, 2024 Japanese Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo doubts missing Friday practice was the reason for missing out on Q3 at Suzuka.

Daniel Ricciardo says he’s taking the positives out of a much more competitive outing for RB, in which he was narrowly beaten by Yuki Tsunoda.

The Australian driver was knocked out in Q2 as Yuki Tsunoda went half a tenth quicker to make it through into the final part of qualifying at Suzuka, ahead of Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo: Frustrating but encouraging

Ricciardo has been out-qualified by Tsunoda at all four races so far in 2024 but, having all but matched the Japanese driver, the qualifying session at Suzuka marked the strongest performance from the Australian driver after a tough start to the season.

Race engineer Pierre Hamelin could be heard on the team radio, encouraging Ricciardo to see the positives of his day at Suzuka despite being knocked out in Q2 by his own teammate.

Speaking to the media following the session, Ricciardo said he was feeling frustrated but is clinging on to the happier aspects of his performance.

“It’s mixed,” he admitted when asked about his feelings on qualifying in 11th place.

“Personally, obviously, there’s that frustration when you just miss out, and when I could see on the board I was 10th, I knew there were a couple of cars to come.

“So it was close. That’s frustrating but it’s also encouraging because it has been certainly, for whatever reason, a tricky start to the year.

“I can’t take anything away from Yuki, he’s been driving very well.”

With Ricciardo having missed out on Friday’s first practice as Red Bull rookie driver Ayumu Iwasa drove in Ricciardo’s car for FP1 to fulfill their first rookie requirement, the Australian couldn’t make up for lost time in the afternoon due to rain hitting the track.

But, despite the lack of track time compared to Tsunoda, Ricciardo said he didn’t want to use it as an excuse.

“I don’t want to use yesterday as why I’m half a tenth off – it’s not because of yesterday, but it certainly made today a bit trickier for us,” he said.

“So I think, in those circumstances, we also did quite well to recover what we did. I think that’s encouraging.”

But, while Ricciardo may have missed out on a top 10 position in qualifying, Ricciardo said he isn’t quite sure what to expect in race conditions but is feeling positive he can make progress.

“For tomorrow, I actually feel quite good,” he said.

“I haven’t really done a long run, but I try to keep it positive. Pierre, my engineer was… I could feel he felt like me, but he was also trying to be realistic and appreciate that we actually did quite a good session.

“So I think we just use these little smiles and positives now going into tomorrow. It’s semi-painful, but I think there is also some satisfaction in today’s results.”

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Daniel Ricciardo: We’ve found a little more direction

Having had a turbulent weekend last time out in Melbourne, in which Ricciardo wasn’t close to the pace of Tsunoda, the Australian driver said there had been something of a change of approach for this weekend as he is prepared to drive a less stable car in a bid to find performance, rather than working from a baseline of stability.

Having not really figured out where his pace was lacking in Australia, Ricciardo said he’s gained clarity on that picture in the two weeks since Melbourne – having also used the third practice session at Suzuka to put his learnings into practice.

“It has and I think also, in that short time, we had obviously this morning and now, I think we did a really good job of understanding a bit more from Melbourne,” he said.

“We certainly went through quite a lot post-Melbourne and it’s also one of those ones where it’s, I think, on a race weekend you don’t have the luxury of time, obviously, there’s a couple of hours in between sessions, but maybe some changes you make, in hindsight, aren’t actually the direction at the time.

“You might think they are but, give it a week after the race and we’ve gone through everything, we actually kind of figured out maybe some things weren’t really the direction we should have gone.

“That’s also partly my feeling, maybe kind of getting skewed with a few things. So yeah, I feel like we have found a little bit more direction, which is positive.

“It’s ultimately still not where I want to be. But it’s close, and it’s encouraging. As I said, I don’t want to take anything away from Yuki. I think he’s driving well, so I’m not falling behind to someone also in bad form.”

Asked whether one of the changes he’s pursuing has been to chase the inherent potential of the car, Ricciardo said: “I was certainly struggling with it, I’m struggling to kind of feel the car, especially in the high speed. It was kind of drawing some confidence out of me.

“So we tried to look for that stability and, sometimes, stable is safer and slower. At the time, we thought it made sense, but I think, in hindsight, we just ended up making the car slower.

“So yeah, it’s just trying to understand how to keep it on the edge but to a place where I can still feel it and feel comfortable with it. So we got back to a similar place to that this weekend.

“It’s funny because last year was the opposite. He was very much an understeer car guy and I was very much an oversteer car – that’s always what I was looking for.

“To be fair, he’s certainly come up more toward what I liked last year. But yeah, Melbourne we kind of went opposite ways. I think that’s what we started thinking, ‘Alright, maybe we’ve got to not get too lost here’.”

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