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F1 China 2013: Ricciardo makes most of top ten return
14 April 2013
Daniel Ricciardo's impressive seventh-place qualifying result at the Chinese Grand Prix helped the Australian take his first points of the 2013 season and lay a few ghosts to rest in the process.
The Australian eased into the top ten shoot-out on Saturday afternoon in Shanghai, before taking advantage of the decision to fit the harder tyre to the cars of Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg instead of the softer, faster, option. Having made it through to Q3 for the first time since last year's Bahrain Grand Prix, however, Ricciardo had no intention of playing safe with one eye on the race.
"I definitely wanted to post a time,” he told Sky Sports, “There's always talk of saving the tyres or whatever, but I wanted to give it a crack and see how we went. It paid off well."
Having posted just one finish from the opening two rounds, and that a disappointing 18th place at Sepang three weeks ago, Ricciardo was hoping for better fortune in China, but revealed that turning the car into a top ten contender had been a slow process.
"It all started [Friday]," he explained, "We weren't extremely fast, but the way we worked made it the best Friday of the season. It was the best day of testing we've had - everything just worked well."
Qualifying in the top ten so rarely obviously makes the memories easier to recall – but Ricciardo was not particularly keen to dredge up reflections of last year's race in Bahrain, where a bad start dropped him almost to the tail of the field and out of contention for a score.
"It's been nearly a year since [Bahrain] and I've had plenty of time to reflect," he confirmed, "To be honest, since then, I've just been hanging out to get another Q3 and to get another chance to fix everything I didn't do that day.”
Accepting that his strategy may not have been the right one, in that those cars starting on the harder rubber could have been a threat depending on how quickly the softs dropped off, the Australian was happy to make a better getaway in Shanghai, staying in the top ten through to half distance as the various game plans played out, before moving up in the closing stages as he got the better of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, and Paul di Resta late stop for soft Pirellis dropped the Scot behind the Toro Rosso.
“I am really pleased to score my first points of the season and to confirm the qualifying performance,” Ricciardo said after crossing the line in seventh place, less than two seconds adrift of Ferrari's Felipe Massa.
“After yesterday afternoon, I kept calm, knowing the real work would begin today. The last time I qualified this well was sixth in Bahrain last year and then I failed to score so, today, I really wanted to show people what I could do. It's great for me to have had a great race, but it's especially good for the team, who have worked so hard for this.”
The result was all the more worthy as Ricciardo had had a prolonged stop for a replacement front wing, following a collision with Nico Rosberg's Mercedes, that may ultimately have cost him a better haul.
“Of course, the early pit-stop to change the nose affected our plans and, towards the end, Massa's Ferrari was looking bigger and bigger ahead of me!” he said, flashing his trademark grin, “So, yes, maybe I could have done even better but, for now, I'll settle for this seventh place.
“From the start of the season, we have had many changes in terms of personnel and it takes a while for that to gel. But, this weekend, it felt like everything clicked into place after the first two race weekends were a bit up and down. Now I expect us to continue getting stronger from here on.”
Team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne had a far less satisfactory afternoon, with his 15th place start – boosted one spot by Mark Webber's penalty – being compromised by a clash with the Australian early in the race.
“It's not been a good weekend, as I did not have a smooth time of it from the start,” the Frenchman sighed, “However, as I said yesterday, the pace of the car has improved in the break since Malaysia, as could be seen from what Daniel was able to do today.”