Daniel Ricciardo is hopeful he has put his struggles at McLaren behind him after he drove an excellent race to finish seventh at the Austrian Grand Prix.
The result is a major improvement from last week’s poor showing at the same circuit, where he placed a lowly 13th.
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Max Verstappen dominated the race to win his third consecutive Grand Prix and extend his lead over Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship to 32 points.
Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris drove a superb race to clinch third and a crucial podium finish.
The Australian showed glimpses of his trademark race craft, overtaking several drivers throughout the race to achieve his equal second-best finish of the season.
Ricciardo started back in 13th on the grid after struggling in qualifying, but he wasted no time playing catch-up, as he shot up to P9 after a chaotic start at the Red Bull Ring.
He passed George Russell and Esteban Ocon on the opening lap, before overtaking Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez soon after.
Then Ricciardo was at his best, passing former world champion Sebastian Vettel on lap 18 to move up into P5.
The 31-year-old pitted just before the halfway mark and gradually made his way back through the field to sixth position as other drivers made their pit stops.
In the final laps of the race, Ricciardo was locked in an intense dual with Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who were right on his tail.
Sainz had better pace than his teammate and was ordered to pass Leclerc, and managed to get around Ricciardo on the penultimate lap, to take P6 from the Aussie’s grasp agonisingly close to the finish line.
Daniel Ricciardo showed glimpses of his best form during his seventh-placed finish at the Austrian Grand Prix. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
“I don’t think there was much Daniel could have done there,” former F1 driver Paul Di Resta explained on Sky Sports.
“Carlos was coming in, the team (Ferrari) doing that switch around has helped them get position and unfortunately for Daniel, he had Leclerc in the middle of them.”
Ricciardo’s performance impressed F1 experts and viewers.
“I have to say, Ricciardo has driven a super race today,” commentator David Croft said.
“If he can’t get it right on Saturday, he is showing signs that on a Sunday he can correct things and he can race at a place that McLaren would want.”
“He’s done a great job today, an absolutely great job,” Di Resta added.
The McLaren driver was disappointed he was unable to hold on to sixth place but was encouraged by his performance.
“I’m trying not to be too low or too high,” Ricciardo said after the race, referring to wanting to keep his emotions on an even keel.
“Obviously yesterday (qualifying) wasn’t great, wasn’t fun.
“I took a lot more enjoyment from the race. It kept me busy the whole time and just had a good start, good restart. Then the defence was tricky, but it was a better day.”
Ricciardo said the key to his improvement was simply enjoying the race.
“Obviously it does get you down but today I just needed to have fun and even the position somewhat didn’t matter,” he said.
“It was just to go and get in some battles and fight. I think that was the important thing.”
He added he was pleased how well he progressed through the midfield at the start of the race.
“It’s obviously easier to come through a bit more when you start out of position.
Daniel Ricciardo was in the zone for the Austrian Grand Prix. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP)Source:AFP
“But in saying that, it’s normally a mess deep in the back. Obviously today it went well and last week it went well, but you can also get caught in a mess.
“That gives me encouragement going into this Spring qualifying we’ve got in Silverstone, knowing wherever I start that race, I have confidence to start Sunday further up.”
Ricciardo admitted he was feeling the effects of racing three weekends in a row.
“I love staying in that routine but I’m knackered now,” he said.
“Having that three weeks in a row now you’re constantly playing catch up and I need a few good nights’ sleep.
“If it’s a good race you’re watching replays, if it’s a bad race you’re going through a lot of hypotheticals of what you could have done or what hole you could punch in a wall somewhere.
“I’m looking forward to just switching off for a few days to reset a little bit.”
Ricciardo’s solid result was music to the ears of the big wigs at McLaren.
“Sensational recovery today from Daniel,” McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said.
“Very happy that Daniel could pull off this race today. Very controlled race from his side with a lot of pressure from behind but he was managing his tyres, he was managing the gaps.
“Yeah really happy. And hopefully that now give him additional energy in the next two weeks in order to make the next step in Silverstone.”
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