Daniel Ricciardo says his fourth place in qualifying for the Mexico City Grand Prix came after he arrived at the race with “a chip on my shoulder” and was keen to rectify his tough weekend in Austin.
The Australian returned from injury a week ago at Circuit of The Americas and performed well on Saturday but then had a challenging race on Sunday that saw him come home last of the classified finishers. Some damage was found post-race that left Ricciardo eager to get back in the car and show a better performance in Mexico, and he duly delivered with a stunning fourth on the grid.
“I felt it, to be honest, even during the week before arriving here. I was already thinking about driving a lot more, in terms of just hanging out for it to be Friday and getting back in the car,” Ricciardo said. “It felt like there was some things to show, and also some things to try with the car and the setup that I was confident could work and help me get a bit more out of the car.
“Already…before the weekend feeling a little bit hungry, in a positive way, like a chip on my shoulder. From lap one yesterday I felt good. Really all weekend I think we were a well inside the top 10 car. I think this morning, we were still there in P9. Obviously I was not happy with my lap this morning. I knew that we could show more than that.
“You never know in qualifying because everyone turns it up, but I was confident in myself that I could get some more tenths out of the car. Q1, Q2, Yuki (Tsunoda) was great and gave us a tow just to make sure that we got into Q3. But then Q3, we didn’t have a tow and we still showed really good pace. Probably the coolest thing about today was it wasn’t, ‘Ah, OK, they did it but they gained a couple of tenths from a tow.’ We had raw pace.
“Actually the last lap, I crossed the line pretty angry, because I didn’t improve. I was up in the first sector, and then we slowly lost it through the lap. I was like, ‘OK, kind of threw that one away.’ By the sounds of it, no one improved at the end with a second set of new, so maybe the track kind of fell away. That made me feel a little bit better.”
Having shown strong pace throughout the weekend, Ricciardo also believes he can keep aiming high in race trim on Sunday, such is the performance level of the AlphaTauri.
“It definitely helps when you can put in a good first lap,” he said. “I knew the first lap was good. I knew it was going to be hard to get much more out of it. I definitely felt there was a tenth or so. I saw the first sector — I was up, and then it just started slowly getting away. Obviously P4 is amazing, but then when you look at pole, it was 0.2s. It’s not like Max (Verstappen) or someone was 0.7-0.8s down the road.
“The gap is just as cool as the position, if you know what I mean. We’re really there, and who knows what it means for tomorrow. I don’t feel today is a fluke. I really feel like we had strong pace. I felt with a perfect lap, going through it in my head last night, I thought maybe today we could be P6, P7 if everything goes well. I definitely had confidence we weren’t just a P10 car. P4 is pretty cool.”