Ricciardo puzzled by qualifying struggle after failing to join Tsunoda in points

Formula 1

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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.

AlphaTauri needed a high-scoring weekend as they chased Williams for seventh in the constructors’ standings. Tsunoda’s four points for eighth place – after spending five laps leading the race – left them three behind their rivals.

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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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
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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14 comments on “Ricciardo puzzled by qualifying struggle after failing to join Tsunoda in points”

  1. Occam’s razor

    1. You’re blaming the facial hair? I wouldn’t think it would make too much difference inside the helmet.

  2. Ricciardo had a really good result in Mexico but other than that it’s been a mixed bag. Mexico is one of Ricciardo’s best tracks though so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise… It’s everywhere else that has been hit and miss. Maybe he will come back stronger next year but I’m not completely convinced just yet. If we see a string of strong results from him next season we can say he’s back, until then the jury is still out.

    Yuki seems to have stepped his game up this year and has been really unfortunate with reliability and poor strategy from the team. He should have double the points he’s finished on with the missed opportunities.
    I personally still want to see Liam Lawson get his full debut. Keeping him on the sidelines past next year would be wrong. I hope they give him plenty of F1 tests to do.

    1. I’m giving Dan the benefit of doubt, with his mid season entry and the hand injury. He definitely hasn’t proved anything this season against Yuki, who isn’t the best benchmark to begin with. If he wants that Red Bull seat for 2025, he’d have to start beating Yuki from the start of next season, like he did with Ocon at Renault. Or else, I think it could very well be his last F1 season.

      1. Yeah, he will have to start to show the goods from right away next season. Then again, I do think also Yuki did improve his consistency (as one should expect from a more and more experienced driver).
        Red Bull will know that they can call in Liam if needed / wanted. And I seriously doubt that Albon would say no if they would offer him Perez’ drive for 2025

      2. If he wants that Red Bull seat for 2025

        That’d be his 15th season, in which he’ll turn 36. By that time, his career’s peak will be 10 years ago (2014/2016 where he finished 3rd in the WDC). It doesn’t seem like much of a proposition, especially considering his dramatic performance at McLaren and his current struggle to keep up with Tsunoda of all people.

        Not sure what Marko is doing, but it seems the Red Bull talent pool that brought so many people into F1 ten years ago has truly dried up.

  3. Robert Henning
    27th November 2023, 22:55

    Well he was lucky Tsunoda didn’t drive the other AT at Mexico in qualifying. Given Tsunoda was rapid in the race while driving through traffic that race could have in hindsight sealed AT’s 7th could they have postponed the engine penalty to a race like Vegas where they were uncompetitive.

  4. From same country so lean a bit towards him. But in the ruthless dog eat dog world, I’d say he has done his job.
    If anything his mere presence may and it’s a very big may have contributed to Tsunoda and Perez picking up their game then sadly I’d say “job done”.
    Time to vacate the drivers seat, take time weight off the four drivers promotion wise if RB still sees value in him. Equally he could just saunter of around the globe smiling happily and making a living and looking back at a successful and rewarding F1 career. He says NASCAR but I don’t see him commuting to any other Motorsport seriously for the long term. Thanks for the memories and cold sleepless Monday mornings driving with you

  5. Seb Vettel was a one-trick pony, great with those blown-diffuser RBRs which apparently had a counterintuitive handling (Mark Webber was no slouch but never mastered it). It gave him 4 consecutive WDCs, lucky but not undeserved (Fred was consistently driving better but to no avail). Then the blown diffuser was retired and Seb was nowhere, just another midfield driver.
    Daniel benefited from trashing Seb (a 4-time WDC!!), it gave him a reputation. Mostly undeserved, because Seb was nowhere in the post-2013 era. Also, Daniel comes across as a genuinely nice person and it helps.
    Everybody likes Daniel, apparently. But he is just not good enough for a top team, and I am sorry to say that (I like him too).

    1. While that is true about vettel and ricciardo beating him giving him more reputation than he deserved, there are still other reasons to consider ricciardo a good driver, for example his red bull performance all the following years, where whenever the car was up there he was always a threat in quali\race (example monaco 2018, mexico 2018) and he gave verstappen a run for his money and we know how strong verstappen is.

      His renault stint was also pretty good, he destroyed a decent midfielder like ocon, and while his mclaren stint was terrible, if you looked at a race like monza 2021 in isolation you’d have to think that’s still the same ricciardo that went up against verstappen, so it looks like if he can adapt to the car he’s a good driver, just under the top ones, he just rarely did that at mclaren.

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      29th November 2023, 15:35

      Driving today is very different than driving 20 years ago – you have to be as good at texting as driving. Martin Brundle is shocked by the amount of setting changes drivers need to make while driving. Plus your peripheral vision is much more impacted with the halo and much lower sitting position.

      That doesn’t take into account the hybrid engines and their brake-by-wire. It definitely impacted Seb more than others and he was vocal about it from the start.

      He still was competitive nonetheless.

      For all we know, Clark, Fangio, Senna and Prost may have been shadows of themselves if they were racing today.

      1. Michael, I think Clark and Fangio would also have been shocked at the fitness levels of modern F1 drivers, and the forces they have to handle from inside the cockpit.

    3. Melanos, I never knew that about the RBs with blown diffusers having unusual handling. Interesting.

      “Everybody likes Daniel, apparently”

      I’d like him more if he didn’t do that disgusting drinking out of the sweaty race boot. The first time was funny, but making it his trade mark podium celebration is not endearing.

  6. Either Ricciardo is overrated or Yuki is underrated probably both. My prediction is that he is going to have lot of puzzled and mysterious weekend in 2024 as well. Ricciardo seems more happier in RBR family and his pace is probably better than Mclaren days. But Yuki has him covered and next year at 24, he should be even better.

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