Ricciardo on Sunday’s F1 Hungarian GP: “I think I learned a lot from the race”

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Photo Credits: AlphaTauri F1 Team

The 2023 Formula One season has been a predictable sequence of races for many fans following the domination of Oracle Red Bull Racing – in particular Max Verstappen. However, one thing many people surely did not predict was Scuderia AlphaTauri ending Nyck de Vries contract early and replacing the Dutch driver with the much loved Daniel Ricciardo. In his first race of 2023, Ricciardo finished ahead of his teammate Yuki Tsunoda but still told media post-race that there are still a lot of questions to be answered.

There had been a lot of speculation as to how Daniel Ricciardo would perform when first getting into the AlphaTauri during Friday’s practice. Unfortunately, as a result of reduced running due to rain and also damage caused in final practice due to running over a curb – it wasn’t a clear benchmark to see how he was performing in his return to F1.

Therefore, when the Aussie qualified 13th the following day, expectation was high and there was even the possibility of points on race day. The fairytale return was not to be though as contact during the opening lap of Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix gave Ricciardo an uphill battle.

After only the first corner of the race, Daniel Ricciardo already found himself at the back of the pack. This outcome was due to the fact the Aussie had been the innocent party after Zhou Guanyu made contact with his rear. The drama was not done though as that contact caused Ricciardo to then collide into Esteban Ocon who then subsequently made contact with his teammate Pierre Gasly. This meant back-to-back double DNFs for Alpine whilst Ricciardo had to do his best navigating through a trail of cars which were stuck in a DRS train as the race wore on.

“We got a hit from behind into Turn 1, so that put me at the tail of the field,” Ricciardo stated post-race. “Then I was just stuck in a bit of a train with [Logan] Sargeant and someone else.”

Unfortunately, the much expected ‘easier to overtake’ generation of car is yet to reveal itself as Ricciardo explained how “In dirty air, even with these new cars, this circuit is definitely a hard one to follow.”

There was a flash of the speed that Ricciardo has at his disposal when strategy and short stints mid-race saw him gain ground after those ahead pitted. Again though, the fairytale return eluded Ricciardo and he would have to settle for P13. Even so, Ricciardo is not one to seek out the negatives and instead revealed what the race allowed him to learn about his AT04.

“I actually felt good with the tyres; they lose grip quite early with just how hot the temperature is, but then I felt I could manage it. That’s why I was confident to also take a punt on the medium, and we went from there. So, other than really Turn 1, obviously not my doing, I thought it was a really good race,” claimed Ricciardo.

“So just having the pace, having the clear air, and you know, making a few mistakes, learning from those – knowing what the car likes, what it doesn’t, I think I learned a lot from the race.”

Irrespective of any finishing position the fact that Daniel Ricciardo was back in a full-length race with such little preparation shows how well he has been taking care of himself both mentally and physically. A fact he clearly was impressed by – as shown in his post-race remarks.

“And honestly, just coming into it physically, not doing a race distance in eight months, especially around here, it’s one of the tougher ones – that’s one of the biggest smiles I have right now, [I] actually felt really good out there. I think if we had stayed ahead, and held position at the start, I believe we could have really fought for a points finish,” concluded Ricciardo.

Daniel Ricciardo is an eight-time Formula One Grand Prix winner and his hunger is clear to see. Due to the fact Honda is not officially involved with any aspect of the Red Bull Racing Teams, there must surely also be pressure on Tsunoda to retain his place. As such, we can assume that the battle between teammates will be an intense one and yet again it is the drama further down the pack that is making the 2023 Formula One season one to watch.