Ricciardo: A “mystery” why we couldn’t match Tsunoda in F1 Abu Dhabi GP as AlphaTauri miss out on P7

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Neither qualifying nor the race at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix went well for Daniel Ricciardo, who was unable to figure out how his AlphaTauri teammate got the edge on him from FP3 onwards.

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

AlphaTauri needed an exceptional weekend in order to catch Williams for seventh place in the constructors’ standings. Following a five-lap lead, Yuki Tsunoda finished in eighth position, leaving the team only three points behind its rival Williams.

Daniel Ricciardo, on the other hand, ended up placing fifteenth in qualifying and finished the race eleventh after briefly spending the race in the points thanks to an early and unscheduled stop. The Australian said recovering from fifteenth place turned out to be challenging.

“It wasn’t a bad race,” he said,

“We had decent pace, but as soon as you get into a little dirty air, it’s hard, 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.”

The 34-year-old driver started nine positions behind his teammate, which put him at a disadvantage, but if a visor tear-off hadn’t got stuck in his brake duct that forced him to pit on lap 7, he may have had a stronger race avoiding an early pit stop. He did, however, minimise the impact the incident had on his race outcome.

“I need to see how much it affected us, because I think for a two-stop, 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 said.

“We still, I would say, recovered well and had a decent race. There are 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 where we started.”

Ricciardo gained four positions compared to where he started, while Tsunoda fell two as a one-stop attempt hurt the Japanese drivers in the closing laps. In spite of his confidence in his race pace, Ricciardo confessed that he did not “quite get fully on top of it” during qualifying.

I’ll take some responsibility for that, not maybe putting the best lap together,” Ricciardo said, referring to qualifying as “kind of the Achilles’ heel” of his Grand Prix weekends in Belgium, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. He admitted, however, that the car felt great the moment he hit the track and that he didn’t know why he was so far off Tsunoda’s performance last weekend.

“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.”

After making a small set-up change between final practice and qualifying, he said they still had “a couple of little things” left to figure out. As Ricciardo pointed out, his Q2 time was pretty much the same as his Q1 attempt, only improving by 0.019s.

“Even with a new set 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.”

With a significant floor update for the season’s last race made by AlphaTauri, Ricciardo admitted that he had high expectations heading into the weekend and thought Q3 would be on the cards with his teammate.

“I definitely felt like we were going to be a Q3 car.

“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.”

The Australian driver claimed that Tsunoda changed his set-up to be more similar to his teammate’s, which made the difference between the two cars even more puzzling to the 8-time Grand Prix winner.

“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,” he concluded.