Ricciardo could drive ‘on the limit, unlike the last two years’ in qualifying

2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Daniel Ricciardo says he enjoyed getting to push a Formula 1 car flat-out again after his first qualifying session since returning to the grid.

The new AlphaTauri driver secured 13th on the grid for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, out-qualifying team mate Yuki Tsunoda on his first attempt by 0.013 seconds.

Ricciardo said he had tried to keep his expectations under control ahead of his first qualifying session back in F1.

“Of course coming into the weekend, I knew there would be a bit of a hill to climb,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “I was trying not to get caught up on how I go this weekend but, of course, I’m a race car driver, so I’m always going to expect something out of myself.

“But truthfully I was really trying to remove as much of that as I could and just make sure that this is the place that makes me feel like myself again. Jumping in the car in qualifying, I felt actually really relaxed.

“Not taking it lightly, but just happy – happy to be back and happy to be able to push a car on the limit again. This is something that I obviously didn’t always have the last year or two and that’s why I think the time off was needed for me.

“I thought I was going to get 12 months, in the end it was only about six or seven or whatever, but fortunately it was enough. I felt like I had enough time to fall back in love.”

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Ricciardo says he is not placing any stock in where he qualified at this early stage of his return as his focus is still on getting familiar with his new car.

“I had no idea where to expect to be on the grid,” he said. “So the 13th place, in a way, feels somewhat irrelevant, I think.

“Of course my reference is Yuki for now and I think he’s also – watching from the outside – a good reference. Because not only this year, but I think already the second half of last year, I could see with Pierre [Gasly] he was starting to be a lot more competitive.

“So whether I’m ahead or behind, I think just to be there is positive for me. Obviously not a whole lot of time in the car, but in saying that I felt pretty comfortable.”

Ricciardo only drove the AT04 for the first time in Friday’s practice sessions, the first of which was affected by rain, but says he is already feeling comfortable in the car.

“Yesterday we only really got one session,” he said. “I was a bit off the pace, but I kind of knew where I was missing and it was quite self-explanatory where I could find the pace. So I felt quite confident in the car.

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“But we can probably all of us get to 95% quite easily at this level – it’s in those last few percent. I think I found a little bit in quali, but for sure there’s still a little bit more.”

Heading into his first grand prix for more than half a year, Ricciardo admits he expects to face a challenge over the 70 laps of the race and does not know if he will be able to fight for points.

“It’s really hard [to predict],” he said. “I’ve done probably only maybe an eight-lap run or something at the moment, so even for me I think there’s going to be a lot of things for me to learn tomorrow in terms of tyre management, and also the car with [full] fuel, as the tyres go off.

“I think I’ll start to probably discover a bit more about the car and obviously then, in those conditions, the weaknesses. So I think there’ll probably be laps where I’m maybe not doing too great, but then there’ll be other times where I’m doing better because I’m learning as I go, in a way. I don’t want to say that negatively, but inevitably there’s going to be still a handful of things to pick up on.

“Hopefully I can be a fast learner and if we find our way in the points, then that would be huge. But I think for now, obviously as a team we need to get points, but it’s really just making sure that I’m on top of the car, at one with the car and then that’s the first box I need to check.”

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2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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4 comments on “Ricciardo could drive ‘on the limit, unlike the last two years’ in qualifying”

  1. Well short of a those extra couple of tenths for Q3 he really couldn’t have asked for a better return—especially given the compromised practice sessions.

    As a fan, hopefully he can hang onto it during the race. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Yuki finds a way ahead. If he does, so long Danny is nipping at Yuki’s heels at the chequered flag it’ll be a decent return.

    1. Yes, I also thought it wasn’t a bad performance for ricciardo on his return so far, but I guess to convince us and red bull that he’s the pre mclaren ricciardo he’d have to beat tsunoda fairly regularly, this is at least a good start, as he should get better with more experience with this car.

  2. Immediately out-qualifying his teammate despite the latter’s considerable car familiarity advantage was surprising but something I was still prepared for to an extent.
    Nevertheless, not a great look for Tsunoda despite only the first competitive session together.

  3. A slim chance for points if both ATs to start on Hards and go long. Whoever is behind (RIC or TSU) to hold up and slow down the early Medium pitters through the twisty sections.

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