Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo believes that his dismal performance in this year’s Austrian Grand Prix was a turning point that fueled his motivation to “get back to the front”.
Ricciardo had scored just three top-ten finishes before Austria where the Aussie qualified well down the order.
The Renault driver spent the bulk of the afternoon outside of the points and with little hope of improving his fortunes, ultimately finishing P12 after a low-key performance, one spot ahead of teammate Nico Hulkenberg.
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But in the midst of Ricciardo’s hopeless midfield struggle on that day emerged a salutary flicker of inspiration.
“Austria was one of our worst weekends of the year,” Ricciardo remembered, speaking to F1’s Tom Clarkson during the latter’s Beyond the Grid podcast.
“Towards the end of the race, I was out of the points, and even with a Safety Car, our race wasn’t changing much, so I had a bit of time to think inside the helmet – which you can do!
“I was driving around and I was actually saying, ‘This isn’t fun – this race is not fun for me right now’.
“But instead of being like, ‘This isn’t fun, I want to quit and walk away because this sucks’, it was like, ‘I don’t belong here and I don’t want to be running around 14th, I want to get back to the front and I believe I can and I believe we can be better’.”
Ricciardo’s inner thoughts were just the spark he needed to boost his determination.
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“It fuelled my motivation,” he added. “I was frustrated and angry but it fuelled a lot of positivity.
“Because it just made me want to get back to the front quicker, and that hunger was more apparent than ever during that race. It was a good thing.”
Ricciardo appeared more incisive in the second half of 2019, although Renault’s R.S.19 was limited in its ability to carry the Aussie forward.
But more points were nevertheless put on the board, with Ricciardo’s fourth-place finish in Italy representing the highlight of his season.
Armed with the lessons its learnt from this season and a beefed up technical department at Enstone, the 30-year-old is confident Renault can make significant progress next year.
“I know I like to talk a lot, but I am not one to say: we will do better next year boys if I really don’t think we will,” Ricciardo said.
“I am not just going to massage their shoulders and tell them what they want to hear. I know I will get better so that is one variable that I know is going to change for the better. Even that alone I am confident moving into next year.
“But speaking with the aero guys, the philosophy of how we designed the car, and especially the front of the car this year – they are pretty confident that that was not the best way to go.
“Looking at some other teams, to develop the car we can change that and get a lot more out of it as the year goes on.
“With the updates we didn’t really get that much, so we have a bit in hand. We certainly have the resources and the budget to do so. So I’m optimistic.”
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