What a difference a year makes… twelve months ago Daniel Ricciardo powered to victory at the Monaco Grand Prix wearing the blue colours of Red Bull, this year in the black and yellow of Renault the Australian will be lucky to make it into the points.
The big bucks move to Renault has not panned out as expected for Ricciardo, the team are struggling with their package which includes a power unit that lacks the legs of their rivals. Podiums were the target made by the team’s bosses this year but that is fast becoming an embarrassing prediction
After FP2 in Monte-Carlo in which he finished down in 17th and a massive 1.7 seconds down on the prime time set by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, Ricciardo told reporters, “When you see yourself in 16th or 17th place the smile is maybe a little bit reduced, for sure.”
“It’s nicer seeing yourself at the top. But forgetting the times, driving around here in an F1 car is still pretty awesome,” added the Australian who 12-months ago topped the timing screens at the end of the first day of action at the Principality.
He continued, “You feel yourself bite down on your back teeth, and it is a lap where you come on the radio to your engineer and describe some of the balance issues, and you feel yourself a little bit out of breath. So it is always fun.”
Ricciardo remains upbeat and believes he can extract more pace closer to when it matters, “It is quite a bumpy circuit and you have to have the confidence to get it on the curbs. We can be better in that area, riding the bumps and the warp of the track better. A few things we can do with suspension and that.”
“It should all come a bit easier after we sort that out. Nico [Hulkenberg] and I still have a bit in the bag but not a second in us, so we’ve got to find a bit more in the car.”
Grid position on the tight confines of the most famous street circuit in the sport, a fact that the 29-year-old Perth native is well aware of having qualified at the venue on pole last year, “Qualifying is one where you really have to put it all out there.”
“If you crash, then you are at the back and your weekend is done. But you need to be putting everything out there, because every place can really dictate your result more than any other race on the calendar.”
“It is important to put it all together on Saturday. I know how to do that, but we have got a bit more of a challenge this year,” concluded Ricciardo.