Daniel Ricciardo battled his way up from 18th on the grid to finish the Russian Grand Prix in sixth place, but it still felt somewhat anti-climactic to the Australian.
His Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen had a dazzling run to fifth place, even leading for over half the race. By contrast Ricciardo was forced to grind out the laps as he made somewhat slower progress through the field.
That was because his RB14 was already hampered by damage to the front wing sustained on the opening lap of the race.
“Just lost out on the first lap,” he said. “To be honest I can’t really remember what happened. Obviously I wasn’t really ahead of where I started by turn 10.
“Then I remember I had a slipstream from, I think, a McLaren. As soon as I pulled out there was some debris in front of me, and I hit that and I just didn’t have time to see it or react.
“So the first lap wasn’t going that great, and then I took that and broke the front wing,” he sighed. “Hitting the debris I couldn’t avoid because as I said I couldn’t see it until I pretty much hit it.
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“It was a kind of double-whammy on the first [lap] that really shaped the race.
“The first part of that first lap, I want to watch a some replays and see if I can pick up a few things or if it was just circumstances which kept me from advancing,” Ricciardo added. “I’d like to think there’s some room for improvement.”
Ricciardo had to soldier on with the damaged front wing until his sole mandatory pit stop on lap 39, when it was finally replaced.
But by then he was a long way behind his team mate and had no chance of gaining any further positions before the chequered flag.
“Realistically the only other position was Max’s,” he shrugged. “So it was a bit lonely at the end.”
Asked if he was expecting another lonely race next week in Japan, Ricciardo replied that “I hope not.”
“It’s possible because it’s a tough track to overtake. I don’t want this to sound too negative, but it could be that where you qualify is where you finish.
“If it’s a lonely podium we’d probably take that at the moment,” he said. “We’ll see – at the moment Mercedes look really strong. They’ve now shown pace on all circuits.
“They seem to be the car to beat on any layout at the moment, so I think they’ll be tough to beat in Suzuka but hopefully with Ferrari we can have a bit of a fight.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner confirmed that the damage to the Ricciardo’s’s front wing had been substantial and more than enough to affect performance in Sunday’s race.
“He had a tough race today,” Horner told Sky Sports F1. “He got boxed in a little bit at the start, he then picked up damage on the first lap.
“He hit a piece of debris and did quite a bit of damage to the front wing,” he said. “He lost about 30 points of downforce and put a lot of understeer into the car.
“He had to manage that, and that diluted his pace a little.
“But he obviously lost a lot of ground to Max in that first five or six corners, so he’ll be hungry to make amends in the coming races.
“But the car is in good shape. As soon as we get a bit of horsepower under their right foot, then we can race with these guys. That’s what’s so encouraging and what we’re banking on everything for the future.
“Hopefully we’ll get a bit more horsepower [from Honda in 2019] and take the fight to Mercedes and Ferrari.”
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