Ricciardo leaning on experience as he focuses on qualifying form

Daniel Ricciardo used the experience of his tough spell at McLaren to remain calm in the early part of this season as results took a while to come with RB.

The Australian was replaced one year before the end of his McLaren contract and sat out the first part of 2023 as a Red Bull reserve, before returning to AlphaTauri at midseason. After the team rebranded as RB, Ricciardo struggled to match teammate Yuki Tsunoda in the first four rounds but a more encouraging performance with a new chassis in China was followed by an excellent fourth in the Miami Sprint, and Ricciardo says the McLaren experience had an impact on his reaction.

“I think, because I’ve been through that, and with hindsight and all of that, the tough times were important,” Ricciardo told RACER. “I look back at some of the McLaren times and that’s why having some time off last year was so important because there were things I was telling myself, ‘IF I get back into F1, IF I get a seat again, make sure I remember these things I learned from all this stuff and don’t fall back down some of these traps.’


“That was my fear with the first few races of this year, because I felt good, I felt confident — I felt completely fine. I wasn’t second guessing myself. For sure, I was confused sometimes why we didn’t have the pace, but I wasn’t looking kind of like, ‘Oh wow, have I have I lost it? Is my time up?’ It was just so important, because I was worried that the team would start panicking so to speak.

“So I was just dialing it home to them like, ‘Guys, trust me, we’re good. Let’s just stay on course, let’s not go crazy. Let’s not listen to too much and not receive feedback from everyone. We’re good — it’ll make sense soon.’

“Definitely some experience helped with that. You can’t obviously control the narrative everywhere but at least with myself and with my engineer, it was so important that we just stayed tight. And I’ve kind of blocked out a few of the things that don’t matter.”

It was a similar mentality that Ricciardo took after the Miami Grand Prix itself, as he followed his impressive Sprint performance with a Q1 exit in qualifying and 15th place in the race. The 34-year-old says an understanding of the car’s strengths and weaknesses show how crucial qualifying is going to be this season.

“It’s not the same when we’re in traffic. I was able to use the pace and have a clear track and use the downforce and the grip of the car, but in battles and with dirty air we struggle,” he said.

“It just goes back to qualifying — it’s so important. I was upset with the grip I had on that set of tires [in qualifying in Miami], but I’ll always look at myself as well and I could have still done a little bit better here and there, so I still hold myself accountable for the sessions like that.

“We know we’re quick, but we’re not quick enough to start at the back and chop through the field. We’re simply not, so we need to qualify better.”

Story originally appeared on Racer