17 November 2013
United States Grand Prix: Ricciardo bounces back as Vergne stutters
Daniel Ricciardo recovered from a poor day for Toro Rosso to secure himself a top ten start in the United States GP, but Jean-Eric Vergne was left mystified by his slump in Q2.
After the team as a whole lacked pace on Friday in practice, Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo was relieved and even delighted to know he'll be starting from tenth place on the grid for this weekend's United States Grand Prix, the penultimate event of the 2013 world championship.
"In Q1 I was frustrated with the balance of the car and I felt I was quite lucky to get into Q2," Ricciardo admitted. "I believe the wind conditions were making life tricky for everyone and I don't think I was the only one struggling. I was pretty happy with my Q2 lap even though the car was moving around a lot."
Ricciardo missed out on making it through to Q3 by just half a tenth of a second. "Overall, I am pretty happy with eleventh, which is clearly very close to making the cut to Q3," he said immediately after qualifying. "I'm looking forward to the race: I'm just outside the top ten, I'm on the clean side of the track and I get a free tyre choice."
But later came word that he was to be promoted one position further up the grid thanks to the penalty handed down on Esteban Gutierrez for blocking Pastor Maldonado during Q1, which means that Ricciardo not only starts in the top ten but also keeps that free choice of starting Pirelli compound. Unfortunately it's not all good news, however - it comes at the cost of being shifted onto the 'dirty' side of the track for the start of the race.
That's still better than the day that Ricciardo's team mate Jean-Eric Vergne had. The Frenchman was left confused by how he had ended up bottom of the timesheets in the second phase of qualifying on Saturday.
"I can't explain my performance or lack of it this afternoon," he admitted. "We struggled with the car right from the start of the weekend, but we had made progress overnight and improved it in FP3.
"Then this afternoon on my first run in Q1 I was struggling on my first run on the hard tyre, but as soon as I fitted the Medium, I gained two seconds and all of sudden, I had a driveable car and set a good time and was much happier," he continued "But in Q2, when I had opted to go for just a single timed lap on the new Option, I again found the car very difficult to drive.
"Maybe it is linked to the warm-up of the tyres, as it is very difficult to get them up to temperature, so we will have to look at that," he mused. "But generally I just didn't feel comfortable driving the car.
"We will see what happens, when hopefully the improvement we made overnight will pay off over the long runs," he added.
Vergne will at least wake up on Sunday knowing that he's already gained two positions: rather than starting 16th place, he moved up to 14th thanks to starting grid penalties for both Jenson Button and Esteban Guttierrez who will now both start behind the Toro Rosso on the grid at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso's head of vehicle performance, was already hard at work strategising a way to get Vergne into contention. "With the general progress we made since the first day, we can expect our long run pace to be better [on Sunday] and we can aspire to having two cars competitive enough to run at the front of the mid-field," he predicted.
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