Ricciardo ‘really happy’ with Suzuka recovery drive after frustrating qualifying
Sunday didn’t get off to a good start for Daniel Ricciardo, as he exited qualifying in Q1 for just the second time this season. Hampered by a suspension problem, the team managed to rectify the issue in time for the race, where the Australian drove brilliantly to work his way up to seventh at the flag – which then became sixth following a series of post-race penalties for Charles Leclerc.
Renault had looked off the pace of their midfield rivals on Friday and so it proved in Sunday morning’s delayed qualifying session, as he and team mate Nico Hulkenberg qualified 16th and 15th respectively. Ricciardo admitted he was left “scratching my head a bit” to try and identify just where the pace of the R.S.19 had vanished to...
“I felt like something was not right, we didn’t have too many laps to get into [the session] but the two laps we did do didn’t feel right,” said Ricciardo. “Afterwards we verified that we had a problem with the rear suspension, so it was frustrating as that in the end wasn’t our true pace.”
READ MORE: Leclerc demoted to P7 in Japan after double post-race penalty
I knew we'd have a bit more pace in the race, but I didn't think we'd come up to seventh
Starting near the back of the grid, Renault opted for a one-stop strategy, leaving Ricciardo out on a set of medium tyres until Lap 29, longer than anyone else in the field – and it was this that contributed to the Australian managing to fight his way up to seventh by the chequered flag, which became sixth when Leclerc was handed his penalties.
“I knew we'd have a bit more pace in the race but to come up to seventh, we didn't really expect to get that far up so I'm really happy,” said Ricciardo, with his trademark grin. “I thought we were going too long on the medium because I was starting to lose a lot of temperature in the front... But the team said we were still on target. I listened to them basically and then we had a good chance to attack at the end.”
With a series of customarily opportunistic overtakes, Ricciardo was able to scythe his way back through the field – and he was confident of the race pace of his Renault as he looked ahead to the four remaining Grands Prix this year.
“Race pace, if we stay out of trouble on that first lap, we certainly seem to have it. [We’re just] trying to build a bit of fortune and a bit of momentum.”
Two post-race clouds lurked on Renault’s horizon in Suzuka, however. One was the fact that, despite both Ricciardo and Hulkenberg scoring – the German having eventually come home 10th – McLaren took more points for Carlos Sainz’s fifth place than the Renault pair combined, with the Woking team stretching their advantage in fourth place in the constructors’ championship by a point.
The other was a protest launched against the team by rivals Racing Point over a ‘pre-set lap distance-dependent brake bias adjustment system’, with the matter set to be investigated by the FIA in the coming weeks...
Constructors' standings post Suzuka
|3 Red Bull Racing||323|