Monday, May 27, 2024

Ricciardo Focusing on Spa Weekend: “It should fast-track my learning and my improvement”

Daniel Ricciardo said he felt ‘physically fine’ after this first race distance since the end of 2022 last weekend, with the Australian finishing an encouraging thirteenth in the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Ricciardo, an eight-time Grand Prix winner within the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, returned to the grid at Scuderia AlphaTauri after replacing Nyck de Vries, and he felt an even better result could have been possible had he not been tagged by Zhou Guanyu at turn one on lap one.

He took on an aggressive strategy thereafter to recover a handful of positions, but he was happy to have a mistake-free race, with Ricciardo delighted to be back racing after losing his drive with the McLaren F1 Team at the end of the 2022 campaign.

“My whole weekend in Budapest was really good, making me feel all the things I missed, like the adrenalin and being on the starting grid,those emotions are really powerful,” said Ricciardo.

“I felt our pace wasn’t bad and there was maybe even a chance of points if I hadn’t had to start again from the back after being hit on the first lap. It was good the car wasn’t damaged, so I was able to do the 70 laps and I felt physically fine at the end of it.

“There were a lot of things to be happy about. I made a few little mistakes in the race, but by the last stint I was really consistent and I don’t think I could have asked for anything more from my first weekend back.”

Ricciardo returns to the scene of one of his victories this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, and he is looking for a solid start to his first sprint race weekend of the season, particularly with only a single practice session before Qualifying on Friday afternoon.

He believes that if they start the weekend strongly that he can secure a top ten finish, something that AlphaTauri have struggled to achieve so far in 2023.

“I’m happy to have a back-to-back and go to Spa now,” said the Australian.  “I think it was a solid start and it will be good to jump straight back in the car after just a couple of days, as it will keep the ball rolling. It should fast-track my learning and my improvement. That’s the plan, to keep chipping away at it.

“I think Spa is always a challenge, the circuit itself is one of the best and the weather is always a factor, but I will deal with it with confidence, after how things went in Hungary. I want to be optimistic about it, but also I have to stay grounded, as there are still a lot of things to learn.  

“It’s a Sprint format, which means it will be a pretty busy time, with just one practice session and then straight into qualifying. I plan to log a lot more laps, have some fun, and try to get in the points on Sunday.”

“It’s definitely a high-speed rollercoaster buzz” – Yuki Tsunoda

Team-mate Yuki Tsunoda finished down in fifteenth in Hungary, but despite the disappointing result the Japanese racer felt AlphaTauri had made progress with its AT04.

Tsunoda has been responsible for both of the teams’ points so far in 2023, but he has not broken into the top ten since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and he hopes they can continue their progress in Belgium.

“In Hungary, there were a few positive signs that we have made some progress with our car, but I didn’t make the most of that over the weekend, and apart from making up a lot of places at the start, it wasn’t a great race for me,” said Tsunoda.  

“I think the team learned something from it, so it’s good that we go racing again immediately.”

Tsunoda hopes his AlphaTauri mechanics can find a set-up that will give them good straight-line speed as well as enough downforce through the corners, something that is needed to be competitive at Spa-Francorchamps.

“Like everyone, I really like Spa, and with the car we have right now, the main challenge will be finding a set-up that gives us the best possible straight-line speed and as much downforce as possible for the high-speed corners,” he added.

“We also have to factor in that it’s a Sprint weekend, but I’m looking forward to that because I really enjoy qualifying at every track, and to do two qualifying sessions in one weekend at a brilliant track like Spa, is quite special. Each track has a different type of excitement during qualifying, and at Spa, it’s definitely a high-speed rollercoaster buzz.

“After this weekend comes the summer break, which is important for all the team members who work so hard, and it will also be a chance to reset and come back stronger for the last ten races of the year.”

Yuki Tsunoda has not scored points since Azerbaijan – Credit: Peter Fox/Getty Images