Daniel Ricciardo was outperformed by Yuki Tsunoda in qualifying and the race at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and he was unable to understand how his AlphaTauri team mate found a pace advantage.
Ricciardo meanwhile qualified 15th and only spent six laps in a points position before finishing 11th. He said it had been hard to recover from his lowly starting position.
“It wasn’t a bad race,” said Ricciardo. “We had decent pace, but as soon as you get into a little dirty air, it’s hard,” said Ricciardo. “I feel like we could’ve gotten a few more points, but starting further back put us on the back foot slightly. It’s good that Yuki got some points, but we needed a little more.”
Although Ricciardo started at a disadvantage compared to his team mate, lining up nine places behind him, he had the potential for a better race had it not been for one of his brake ducts ingesting a visor tear-off, forcing him to pit early. However he downplayed the significance of that in his race result.
“I need to see how much it affected us, because I think for a two-stop [strategy], we would have probably pitted a little bit later. I don’t know if it maybe put us in a little bit of traffic or not, but I think it was not bad,” he reckoned.
“We still, I would say, recovered well and had a decent race. There’s always ifs and whats and maybes, but one more lap I think we had Stroll or certainly we would have got his DRS and had a chance at him. One lap away from a potential point, which is not too bad [given] where we started.”
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Tsunoda lost two places from his starting position, while Ricciardo climbed four spots. Ricciardo felt confident with his race pace but admitted that in qualifying he did not “quite get fully on top of it.”
Ricciardo called qualifying “kind of the Achilles’ heel” of his Brazilian and Abu Dhabi grand prix weekends, saying “I’ll take some responsibility for that, not maybe putting the best lap together.” But after qualifying last weekend he admitted the car felt show from “the moment we hit the track” and it was a mystery why he was so far off Tsunoda’s pace.
“We were quite optimistic with the new floor and a few positives we found from that,” said Ricciardo. “I think it was just trying to just put it all together.”
He said they had “a couple of little things” to understand after changing their set-up between final practice and qualifying, to little effect. “Even with a new set [of tyres] in Q2, we didn’t improve the lap time from Q1.
“With track evolution, things like this, it was quite strange. Nothing fundamentally felt off, there was a few corners where you’re fighting a little bit, but honestly it just felt like we didn’t have the speed. And for now, a little bit of a mystery.”
Ricciardo went into the weekend with high hopes as AlphaTauri brought a major floor upgrade for the final race of the season.
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“I definitely felt like we were going to be a Q3 car,” said Ricciardo. “Obviously it’s never guaranteed, as I stand here. But we were certainly confident. [Tsunoda] made progress, we regressed, we got worse. And we didn’t really experiment with anything crazy, so for now, a bit of a mystery.”
Tsunoda moved his set-up closer to his team mate’s, Ricciardo said, which made the disparity between the two cars more of a puzzle..
“We actually ended up pretty similar with set-up. Full transparency, he came closer to us from [Friday]. So actually we ended up with a pretty similar car. And I think that’s kind of why it feels a bit more of a mystery, where from really lap one today he was [ahead].”
“The main thing was I just didn’t feel a peak in the tyre, peak in the grip,” Ricciardo added. “It was simply that. But why that was, we need to understand.”
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