Join DRAKE at STAKE F1 PARTNER
MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 03: 4th placed sprint qualifier Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB looks on in the Paddock after Sprint Qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at Miami International Autodrome on May 03, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Welcome back Daniel Ricciardo!

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 03: 4th placed sprint qualifier Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB looks on in the Paddock after Sprint Qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at Miami International Autodrome on May 03, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Finally, the real Daniel Ricciardo popped back to the sharp-end of Formula 1, the VCARB driver defying his hitherto unimpressive form by qualifying P4 for the 2024 Miami Grand Prix Sprint Race today.

It was a much-needed ‘big’ result for the underpressure Australian. Ricciardo’s return to the Red Bull fold via VCARB has hardly been sensational. In fact, many have been calling for reserve Liam Lawson to get the nod, so bad has Dan’s form been, too often beaten by Yuki Tsunoda.

So much so, Ricciardo called for a new chassis which VCARB provided sceptically it has to be said. Whatever the case, if the chassis was indeed the problem or it’s down to a Placebo effect, Ricciardo of old was back.

And he knew it: “I know it’s in me but did I expect to do a second-row start? Probably not that good. I felt really good in SQ2 and I knew that lap would be good enough for SQ3. I think at that point I was P5 and in my head, I was thinking ‘P5 would be really nice for SQ3’ and then we got P4.

“It was wild. The laps were good but it’s hard to be really clean around here, it was a tricky track. Both laps I kissed the wall, I was definitely pushing. I’m very proud of what I did today but also the team has been bringing upgrades the last few races.

“I had the chassis change in China and we had a new floor here, so it definitely looks like it’s turning around. It’s just so nice starting towards the front,” explained Ricciardo, in what is his first race in Miami. Last year Nyck de Vries was in the cockpit.

Ricciardo: It’s a lot nicer to be in the front rows

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 03: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB prepares to drive in the garage during Sprint Qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at Miami International Autodrome on May 03, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

The Aussie added in the Miami Sprint Race team report: “Things look like they’re turning around and I’m very proud of what the team and myself did today. We had a good session starting from SQ1, even if I made a mistake in the first lap, so we were putting ourselves under a bit of pressure.

“Let’s see what happens in the Sprint race, but it’s a lot nicer to be in the front rows. This can definitely help stay cleaner in the first phase of the race, if not involved in a bit of chaos. I’d love to get some points,” added Ricciardo, that big smile was back!

Dan will start from the second row alongside the Red Bull of Sergio Perez in P3 on the grid, with teammate and pole winner Max Verstappen in top spot and Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari lining up P2.

In contrast, in the sister VCARB, in an almost bizarre case of role reversal, Yuki Tusnoda was nowhere relative to his teammate after ‘owning’ him for the best part of this season and last. The Japanese driver had not much to say: “SQ1 was good, so the car was there but in the end, we weren’t able to maximise the performance.

“We tried with one push but it didn’t work out. I also wasn’t able to put it all together. In hindsight, two pushes maybe would’ve worked better for us but the pace the car showed does give me confidence for the remainder of the weekend,” added Tsunoda.

Permane: We need to have a deep look and understand what happened to Yuki

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 03: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB prepares to drive in the garage during Sprint Qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at Miami International Autodrome on May 03, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

VCARB racing director Alan Permane summed up his team’s Friday in Miami: “A tremendous session for us and Daniel; really, really happy. Straightaway from the first laps this morning the car was performing well.

“We have an upgraded floor here and it’s performing as expected. That’s given Daniel the confidence to push the car hard at this tricky track, with walls all around, and the result is fourth on the grid for the Sprint race.

“We need to have a deep look and understand what happened to Yuki in SQ2 because he’s been there, happy all day, and confident in the car. After his runs in SQ1, he was super confident and said he wanted to go for one timed lap in SQ2, and that was the right thing to do.

“It didn’t come together, but we’ll dig deeply into everything to try and understand it. It’s early in the weekend, so we have plenty more opportunities to get him up the front as well,” concluded Permane.

For Ricciardo. this is his best Qualifying since Mexico last year when he also put the AlphaTauri (now VCARB) in P$ for that Grand Prix. From P4 he is possibly out of position for that car. Today will tell if it was a fluke or not.

Whatever case we saw the REAL Ricciardo today. However, a sparrow does not maketh a summer as he will have to do what he did in the Sprint Race Qualifying, on Friday in Miami, every session henceforth because that is what F1’s benchmark driver -Max Verstappen – does every session, every weekend.

Big Question: Did VCARB give Daniel Ricciardo’s old chassis to Yuki Tsunoda?