How Daniel Ricciardo actually helped Max Verstappen to easier win in Japan

Thomas Maher
Helmut Marko, Red Bull, 2024 Japanese Grand Prix.

Helmut Marko has revealed how Daniel Ricciardo inadvertently helped Max Verstappen out at Suzuka.

Helmut Marko has revealed how Daniel Ricciardo’s crash in Japan inadvertently helped Max Verstappen out in his quest for victory.

While Verstappen raced to a comfortable win at Suzuka, Ricciardo was eliminated on the first lap due to a racing incident – but his mistake actually helped Verstappen out quite a bit.

Helmut Marko reveals how Daniel Ricciardo helped Max Verstappen

With Verstappen starting the race from pole position, the Dutch driver led off the line and maintained his lead over Sergio Perez through the opening corners.

Way back in the midfield, Daniel Ricciardo was busy watching Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll after the Australian made a bad start to the race. Unaware the fast-starting Alex Albon was on his outside, Ricciardo moved over and the pair made heavy contact.

The collision resulted in both drivers going off into the barriers. Uninjured, both were nonetheless out of the race due to the damage to their cars, and the race was red-flagged to allow for a clean-up and fixing of the tyre barriers.

But, during the red-flag stoppage, Red Bull was able to make a tweak to Verstappen’s front wing to wind on some more front downforce to the RB20.

Speaking in his column for Speedweek following the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, Marko revealed Ricciardo’s crash had allowed the team to make a change beneficial to Verstappen.

“For Max, the adjustment of the front wing turned out to be critical, which was also caused by the higher Sunday temperatures,” he said.

“Max wanted more wing, his race engineer GP Lambiase wanted less.

“By stopping the race, we were in the fortunate position of being able to readjust it. Indirectly, you can say that Ricciardo helped Verstappen, because from the restart everything was in the green zone for Max.”

As for Ricciardo’s collision, Marko was dismissive: “Ricciardo was overcautious in the first corner anyway and was overtaken left and right. This was followed by the kind of racing accident that can easily happen at the start.”

Marko pointed to the fact Red Bull rolled out a rather large upgrade package to the RB20 in Japan as being the reason for them not having the setup fully optimised – particularly after missing out on FP2 due to rainy conditions.

“After the failure in Melbourne, Max was highly motivated, but was not really happy with the set-up during all the practice sessions,” Marko said.

“The qualifying lap wasn’t ideal either, but it was just enough for pole position. We were only fully back in the race. This was partly due to the changes that were made in qualifying and partly due to the higher temperatures, which traditionally suit [us].

“The reason why we weren’t at our best with the setup was probably a major technical update that we made in Japan. Because the second session on Friday was more or less canceled – too wet for slicks, too dry for intermediates – something like this can happen.”

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Max Verstappen explains amusing radio message

During the Grand Prix, Verstappen could be heard having a bit of back-and-forth with Lambiase about the front wing level on his car, with the race engineer seeming to come out on top.

With Verstappen complaining about his RB20’s handling going from understeer to oversteer, he said over team radio: “Yeah, maybe one or two clicks less is okay.”

This resulted in Lambiase triumphantly saying: “I won’t say I told you so, but understood. Thank you!”

After taking victory by leading home a Red Bull 1-2 to take his third win of the season, Verstappen was asked about the exchange with his race engineer.

“We had, not an argument, but he said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’,” Verstappen explained in the post-race press conference.

“I’m like, ‘yeah, I’m pretty sure’.

“Turned out to be wrong. So he was right.

“But in a way, it also fires me up, because I’m like, OK, well, even I’m not entirely happy with the balance now, I’ll still try to be as consistent as I can be without shouting back at him.

“But we have a great relationship. And yeah, it works well like that.”

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