Ricciardo admits he’s “raised the possibility” of a RB F1 chassis change amid early-season struggles

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Three races into the season, Daniel Ricciardo is still searching for a standout performance to shut down the comparisons between his current form and his difficult tenure at McLaren. 

The Australian has openly admitted to feeling puzzled by the performance gap between him and his RB teammate Yuki Tsunoda—the team’s sole points scorer after an impressive performance at Albert Park. 

“It’s probably, what we’re chasing is a little bit of, as always downforce, a bit of rear grip,” Ricciardo said. “To be honest, I struggled a little bit in the high speed in Melbourne and Saudi.

“Saudi we did see we were down a bit, so we kind of felt like we had a bit of an explanation for that. But it was still the case in Melbourne through kind of Turn 9 and 10 where I was down a bit compared to Yuki.

“I think we probably focus a little bit of our set-up on those areas to give me that confidence, and then I think the low and medium speed stuff, we’re pretty much there.

“And then probably on top of that, it’s just important… it’s not a McLaren situation,” he reiterated.

“So I think it’s just important now that I just keep working with my engineers, and we don’t start taking too many suggestions or advice from the outside.

“Of course, I would have wanted more results from the first few races, I’m not happy with it of course. But it’s important that we just stay on course, ultimately, and don’t get sidetracked.”

Ricciardo admitted that he’s feeling the pressure, but was quick to add that a lot of it is self-imposed: “I say yes, but my answer is it’s from me more than anyone.

“Of course I’m sure there is [pressure] from the outside, but I came into this season having a full pre-season. I had a really good winter, I trained my butt off and I feel really good, so everything in my head and through my years of experience tells me that we should start the season firing on all cylinders, so that’s where I’m like, ‘okay, it hasn’t really happened yet.’”

Despite his struggles, Ricciardo remains optimistic that a strong performance will soon materialise.

“It’s been three races, but I know that I don’t need to change anything, it’ll come, it’s just a little bit here and there and I think it will just…whatever is maybe just missing at the moment will click. I think it’s one weekend away from that. 

“Even Melbourne—obviously I was probably disappointed on paper with the weekend, of course, and not getting points and the quali and all that, but when we kind of analysed the race, it wasn’t as sad as it probably looked or seemed.

“We had good race pace and I think there’s some good things that we’re taking, we just need to put it together now. That I will do. I said I would in Melbourne and I fell short, but I will do it this weekend.”

Since the second round in Jeddah, Ricciardo has been working closely with the team to determine why his feeling inside the car hasn’t been translating to tangible results.

“Since Saudi, we changed a few things,” he said. “And then probably for China, we’ll change a few more things.

“We’re obviously trying to make sure that everything is good and there are no flaws in anything. And it’s just obviously for us, peace of mind because we have obviously explored quite a bit.

“I’ve done a full pre-season and I jumped in last year and I was on the pace straight away in Budapest and this year feels like I’m a little bit behind, even with better prep and more experience with the car and the team.

“So that’s why we’re just making sure that we’re not missing something that is kind of out of our control for now.”

He hinted that further modifications could be on the way after the Japanese Grand Prix, depending on how the weekend unfolds.

Last week, RB team principal Laurent Mekies confirmed the team will try to accommodate Ricciardo by giving him a car “that he’s more comfortable with.”

Ricciardo revealed that there have even been conversations regarding a possible chassis change in a bid to find extra performance, explaining that he’s determined to explore all avenues before he’s written off. 

“I have certainly addressed that,” he said.

“Just again to make sure… there has been in the past a bit of difference. You know, obviously, I’ve driven F1 a long time now, but you can find some differences. So that was certainly something I raised the possibility of if we still are struggling.

“Before we tell me ‘I’m shit’, let’s at least get that sorted and put to bed.”

“I know what he expects and wants and it’s exactly what I want,” Ricciardo said of Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko. “I know it’s 24 races and it’s a long season and if I have two good races now and all of a sudden it’s forgotten the bad ones.

“But every race that passes is another one that okay, okay, so yeah, so three, three races and not having a result I want. I’m sure it’s also not what he wants or the team want.

“But it’s important for us—Pierre and Patrick, my two engineers have been working their butts off, and it’s important that we just focus on ourselves and don’t get kind of distracted by anything else.

“And of course, we all want the result. But it’s not going to come from receiving suggestions or advice or I don’t know anything else from someone.

“So we’ll just stay on course and I know it will come on. Unfortunately, it hasn’t come yet but I definitely have faith.”