Daniel Ricciardo sets new target after eye-catching Mexican Grand Prix display

Oliver Harden
AlphaTauri driver Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo gets comfortable in the cockpit of his AlphaTauri.

Daniel Ricciardo is “absolutely” convinced that AlphaTauri can beat Williams to seventh in the F1 2023 Constructors’ Championship provided their Mexican Grand Prix form can be sustained.

The Red Bull junior team have improved noticeably since introducing a major upgrade package at the United States GP, with Ricciardo’s team-mate Yuki Tsunoda claiming what was the team’s best finish of the season with eighth place in Austin.

With the team’s understanding of the car expanding, AlphaTauri took a further step in Mexico where Ricciardo qualified fourth – in between the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez – before enjoying a fine race of his own to seventh.

Daniel Ricciardo sets sights on pipping Williams to seventh

With three races remaining, including this weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix, AlphaTauri sit just 12 points behind Williams in the fight for P7 – and Ricciardo feels Interlagos will represent the team’s best chance to eradicate the gap.

Asked if AlphaTauri can catch Williams before the end of the season, he told media: “If this weekend continues, absolutely.

“It’s hard to know. Brazil is a very different track but it’s similar. It’s still at altitude, you still run pretty much high downforce, so maybe it could help us. Let’s see. Vegas? Who knows? A lot of long straights, so we’ve got to be a little more slippery than what we normally are, but I think for Brazil next week we could be OK.”

After returning from a broken hand in Austin, Ricciardo was satisfied with his own performance in Mexico but believes there is still more to come, adding: “After last week, it’s funny. You can never guarantee a good weekend, but I’m not surprised we had a good weekend because I was just ready for it.

“I think the direction we went with setup, I knew that would allow me to just have a bit more confidence with the car, so I’m happy.

“There’s still certainly some things to get out of it. Even in the race, my first sector was a little average – I wasn’t very consistent through the chicane – so for sure some things I can still improve on.

“But overall, I was very, very happy with the weekend.”

Despite taking his best result since last year’s Mexican GP – and hounding George Russell’s Mercedes to the chequered flag on Sunday – Ricciardo claimed he could have finished even higher after the red flag for Kevin Magnussen’s crash hurt him and AlphaTauri strategically.

He explained: “I think everything was actually working pretty well. Honestly, the red flag hurt us but I don’t want to say it too selfishly because that was a big accident and I believe a car failure, so nothing Kevin could do.

“That hurt our race, because strategy [and] everything was looking pretty smooth [but] obviously the main thing is he’s OK. It obviously bunched everyone up and allowed some cars to use a medium, which we didn’t have.

“I think, at that point, it was probably a bit more nervous on pit wall but to still come out with seventh and six points – nearly eight points, we got very close to George at the end – I think [in the] big picture we have to be very happy.

“I was honestly trying as much as I could.

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“It was a little weird. At the start of the stint, I didn’t feel as good as towards the end. I felt like it took me a little bit [of time] to get a rhythm with the tyre and then the last 10 laps I was able to start really pushing harder.

“I think Lando [Norris] getting George probably hurt George’s tyres a little bit, so that brought him back to me and it was tough. I probably didn’t expect to get that close, but when you’re that close you’re like: ‘Oh, we could have got him!’

“He protected well in Turn 4. At one point, I was trying to go on the outside but I could see we were both probably going to run off and had to abort mission. He did well, he did well to defend.

“So we tried, but I think ultimately just to be battling a Mercedes at the end makes me more happy than just missing out on sixth.

“Last week, Yuki got five points and it was huge. Huge for the team. Everyone was cartwheeling and backflipping, so a week later to score six points? I’m very happy.

“I don’t know if Lando’s pace in that second half of the race was as good as the first half, because he was very quick, but we were holding Oscar [Piastri] at bay. It felt like, at least at that moment, this could be a nice lonely fifth place – and I was OK with that.

“So I definitely think we could have been better than seventh without the red [flag]. But that’s racing.

“On one hand, you could say unlucky but still it can always be worse and we could have had a crash or something at the restart, so I’m happy still to come through.”

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