Ricciardo: F1 qualifying vital as Miami GP showed “we’re not quick enough to start at the back and chop through the field”

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After a very impressive P4 in the Miami Sprint Shootout and the 19-lap Sprint for Daniel Ricciardo, The Grand Prix section was far tougher. The 34-year-old had a 3-place grid penalty from the Chinese Grand Prix which was issued as the stewards as he breached the Safety Car regulations.

Ricciardo was knocked out in Q1 with an 1.28.617 that placed him 18th on the grid as he struggled for rear grip, before the penalty was applied that moved him right to the back.

He started the race on the hard compound tyres and took advantage of the Safety Car to move on to the medium tyres. Ricciardo had a great scrap with the McLaren of Oscar Piastri in the closing laps — the McLaren had dropped down the field due to the contact with Sainz and required a new front wing.

Ricciardo explained that in the Sprint race the clean air helped him show the full potential of the car on his way to 4th place, gamely fending off Sainz and Piastri in the process.

But come race day, he was bottled up behind Magnussen in the first stint, and it was a similar story following the Safety Car with Guanyu and Albon.

“Coming into a race I’m always hopeful and optimistic and excited, but I think we’re quickly met with the reality that it’s not the same when we’re in traffic.

“Obviously yesterday I was able to use the pace and have a clear track and just use the downforce and the grip of the car, but today in these battles and with dirty air, we struggle. 

“I think a lot of the cars we raced had lower downforce, so trying to attack and defend was simply just not a straightforward one for us.”

The Australian also talked about the importance of qualifying. Ricciardo feels the RB is not fast enough to start from the back of the pack and climb up the field as they do not hold a big enough pace advantage over their midfield rivals.

“It just goes back to qualifying, it’s so important.

“Obviously yesterday I was upset with the grip I had on that set of tyres, and obviously I still feel that way.

“But also I have to always look at myself as well, and I was like, ‘yeah, I could have still done a little bit better here and there’, so I’ll still hold myself accountable for sessions like that.

“We know we’re quick, but we’re not quick enough to start at the back and chop through the field, we’re simply not, so we’ve got to qualify better.”

Ricciardo now has 5 points in the bag from the Miami Sprint. He is 14th in the Drivers’ Championship ahead of next weekend’s race at Imola.