Puzzling Daniel Ricciardo radio message emerges after fresh Yuki Tsunoda defeat

Jamie Woodhouse
Daniel Ricciardo, RB, 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

RB's Daniel Ricciardo.

A post-Q2 radio message to Daniel Ricciardo from his engineer, after RB team-mate Yuki Tsunoda ensured his elimination, left the driver a little irked and those listening rather confused.

The pressure has continued to mount on Ricciardo heading into the Japanese Grand Prix after an underwhelming start to the F1 2024 campaign, but while qualifying marked a clear step forward, he still could not get the better of team-mate and home hero Tsunoda at Suzuka.

Daniel Ricciardo engineer issues backhanded compliment

Ricciardo was staring at a possible Q3 appearance, which would have been his first since last year’s Mexican Grand Prix, though Tsunoda had other ideas and pushed himself into the top 10 at the very end of Q2, sealing Ricciardo’s elimination with his deficit to Tsunoda a mere 0.055s.

Ricciardo’s race engineer Pierre Hamelin, a veteran of Team Faenza having been there since 2014, took to team radio to deliver the news to Ricciardo in a way which represented something of a backhanded compliment.

“Alright Daniel, I know you always need to do a little bit better, but you should be pleased. We’re in a good place,” said Hamelin.

“Yeah I’m obviously not, but I appreciate we’ve done well,” came the rather stern response from Ricciardo, as Hamelin closed with: “Yeah, let’s focus on the positive.”

BBC Radio 5 Live commentator Harry Benjamin suggested that message perhaps got “a bit lost in translation”, though former W Series racer Alice Powell felt: “That’s a strange compliment.”

The BBC’s F1 correspondent Andrew Benson, like Benjamin had hinted at, felt Hamelin had only positive intentions with that radio message, but can see how the way it was delivered would frustrate Ricciardo.

“I think the engineer means well,” Benson suggested, “it’s not what the racing driver wants to hear, ‘You’ve been beaten by your team-mate but you should be pleased, because before you were really rubbish’.”

Powell confirmed that in Ricciardo’s position, that is how she would have taken that message.

“Yeah, that’s what I was getting at,” she said in reply to Benson, “that’s how I would have heard it as well, that’s how I have heard it.”

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Ricciardo will look to continue this slight momentum into Grand Prix Sunday at Suzuka, before his granted wish of a new RB chassis arrives in China. The team has made it clear though that this was not done in response to Ricciardo’s struggles and that there is no reason technically why he should not be able to extract the full performance of the VCARB01.

RB sporting director Alan Permane said: “For me the chassis is a big lump of carbon that we attach the suspension to, attach an engine to, and a gearbox to.

“It’s really ever so unlikely that there are performance issues with the chassis.

“However, we have a new one coming through, it makes sense at all levels to give that to Daniel, not least that Yuki is super happy and super comfortable where he is.

“We don’t have a preference on drivers. With Daniel maybe it’s good for him to just put that completely to bed, that there any issues with the car.

“I don’t see it as being a performance differentiator and certainly not something we want to be hopping drivers in and out of. It’s a happy accident we had one coming.

“We’re not bringing a chassis because of his issues, let’s be clear about that. It all fits together.

“There’s no reason Daniel can’t drive the car like it is, in its quickest form, that’s clear and I’m pretty sure he understands that.”

Ricciardo is still waiting to get off the mark in F1 2024, while Tsunoda scored RB’s first points of the season in Australia with a P7 finish.

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