22 March 2014
Ricciardo targeting swift F1 podium return
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo is hoping to return to the top three on F1's visits to Malaysia and Bahrain.
Daniel Ricciardo admits that he is hungry to return to the F1 podium following his post-race exclusion from his home race a week ago.
The Australian appeared to have turned Red Bull Racing's fortunes on their head after qualifying on the front row and finishing second to Nico Rosberg on the streets of Melbourne, but a subsequent technical infringement involving the new-for-2014 fuel flow regulations saw the #3 car thrown out of the final result.
Although RBR has appealed the stewards' decision, both team and driver head to round two of the season, in Malaysia next weekend, on zero points – world champion Sebastian Vettel having been an early casualty of technical gremlins – but Ricciardo is determined to prove that his form was no fluke.
“Albert Park's made me hungry to get on the podium again – and I think we've got a really good chance of doing it,” he told the team's official website, “The work we did in the winter targeted reliability rather than performance. It was only in Melbourne that we got the opportunity to start working on a set-up. The RB10 surprised us by being pretty competitive in the dry and very competitive in the wet. It's going to get much better as we dial it in over the next few races and catch up with those teams that did more miles pre-season.”
Catching up with the opposition means bridging the same gap to Mercedes that everyone appears to face after Rosberg cruised to a comfortable victory in Australia, and Ricciardo admits that Malaysia and Bahrain may come a little too early to transform RBR into racewinners.
“At the moment, we're in the battle to be the second-best team,” he conceded, “Obviously, that isn't where we want to be, but it's exceeding our expectations of only a few weeks ago. I think once we really get into the set-up of the car, we'll be able to close the gap to Mercedes. Obviously, they're going to improve too, but I think we're in a good position to make bigger strides.”
Despite the disappointment of being excluded from his home event, Ricciardo insists that there are positives to take from round one.
“Actually, it's mostly positives,” he claimed, “I did a good job in the car and I got to stand on the Australian Grand Prix podium – and no-one's taking the sensation of doing that away.
“What happens next is outside of my ability to control but, honestly, I'd rather it went down like this than have retired from the race with a mechanical problem. I'll take a podium and a subsequent disqualification over that any day of the week.”
With the result of the appeal not likely to be known for several weeks, 'what happens next' is the double-header in Malaysia and Bahrain and, despite having had two test sessions at the Bahrain International Circuit this winter, Ricciardo is bracing himself for two of the toughest races of the year.
“One thing you have to take into account there is the heat,” he explained, “I first drove at Sepang when I was 16 in a four-day Formula BMW test and you couldn't really say I was prepared for it!
“Until you've experienced the heat in the cockpit, it isn't something you can fully appreciate, no matter what people tell you. I was drinking six litres of fluid a day and I still suffered. It's something you prepare for better as you come back again and again, though it's still one of the most physically-challenging races. If you're not correctly prepared then the last 20 laps of a grand prix will be difficult and the physicality of the race can hit your concentration in those latter stages. And so you train, train and train!
“The [Malaysian] race is back-to-back with Bahrain, and I'm not certain what effect two weeks of pre-season testing there is going to have when we race there. Everyone's had a bit of a chance to get their set-up dialled in, so that may bring the field closer together. The circuit isn't one of my favourites, as you can't get a brilliant flow there, but there are a couple of technical turns to put us drivers and the cars through our paces. The RB10 surprised us in Australia by being more competitive than we thought in the dry and the wet, so let's see what the next two races bring.”
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