Ricciardo on superb P7 at F1 Mexico GP: “To be battling a Mercedes at the end, that makes me happy”

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Daniel Ricciardo’s return to F1 seemed doomed and full of uncertainty after Liam Lawson’s great performances in his place. But the Australian driver spread his wings during the Mexico weekend that saw him finish the race in 7th position after qualifying P4.

An incredible achievement for the AlphaTauri team, which has moved up two spots to 8th in the Constructors’ Championship.

Ricciardo had been running in a very solid P5 after everyone had stopped. However, a red flag for Kevin Magnussen’s big crash changed his day somewhat.

At the restart, George Russell passed him and would also be overhauled by Lando Norris later in the stint.

“I think everything was actually working pretty well. Honestly the red flag I think hurt us, but I don’t want to say it too selfishly because there was a big accident — I believe a car failure. Nothing Kevin [Magnussen] could do.

“As much as that hurt our race, I would like to think, cause strategy was looking pretty smooth then — obviously the main thing is that he’s ok.”

“Obviously, it bunched everyone up and allowed some cars to use a medium, which we didn’t have. I think at that point, it was probably a bit more nervous on the pit wall, but to still come out with seventh and six points, and nearly eight points, we got very close to George (Russell) at the end. I think big picture, we have to be very happy.”

The unexpected battle with George Russell’s Mercedes was definitely the icing on the cake for Ricciardo, who had not initially expected to find himself in such a position. The Aussie caught him and very nearly passed the Brit on the last couple of laps.

“I was honestly trying as much as I could [to pass]. It was a little weird, at the start of the stint, I didn’t feel as good as towards the end. I felt like it took me a little bit to get a rhythm with the tyre.”

“Then the last probably 10 laps, I was able to really start pushing harder, and yeah, I think Lando getting George probably hurt George’s tyres a little bit, so that brought him back to me.

“It was tough. I probably didn’t expect to get that close. But when you’re that close, you’re like ‘ah, we could’ve!’ But he protected well in Turn 4.

“At one point, I was trying to go on the outside, but I could see we both probably were going to run off and had to abort mission. He did well, he did well to defend.

“We tried, but yeah. I think ultimately, just to be battling a Mercedes at the end, that makes me more happy than just missing out on sixth.

Tsunoda’s P8 + fastest lap at Austin had shown the pace the car had with the updates introduced in Singapore. Ricciardo was delighted to get off the mark for the first time since his return to F1.

“Absolutely. I think after last week, Yuki got five points and that was huge, huge for the team. Everyone was cartwheeling and backflipping, so a week later to get six points — I’m very happy.”

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Ricciardo believes he could have had a better result without the red flag as he was managing the gap to Oscar Piastri before it. Nonetheless, he was satisfied with the result as it helped out AlphaTauri massively against Alfa Romeo and Haas in the teams’ standings.

“I don’t know if Lando’s pace in that second half of the race was as good as the first half, because he was very quick. Yeah, we were let’s say holding Oscar (Piastri) at bay.

“We had gaps, it felt like — at least at that moment — I was like, ‘this could be a nice, lonely fifth place’, and I was ok with that.”

“I definitely think we could have been better than seventh, let’s say that, without the red. That’s racing.

“On one hand, you could say unlucky, but still. It can always be worse. The restart, we could have had a crash or something, so to still come through, I’m happy.”

Finally, Ricciardo spoke about the good feeling he had coming into the weekend following a tricky Sunday in Austin with damage.

While he was feeling confident in the car, he also pointed to improvements that needed to be made. He stated the turn 2 and 3 chicane was an area of inconsistency from his side during the race.

“You never guarantee it, but I’m not surprised we had a good weekend because I was just ready for it. The direction we went with the set-up, I knew that would allow me to just kind of have a bit more confidence with the car. So yeah, happy.”

“There’s still certainly some things to get out of it, even in the race, my first sector was a little average. I wasn’t very consistent through the chicane. But overall I’m very happy with the weekend.”