After an impressive performance at the Pirelli tire test at Silverstone, Red Bull decided to put Daniel Riccardo in the seat of the AlphaTauri to give him a chance at what some people will describe as redemption.
It didn’t disappoint. In Hungary, he overtook Yuki Tsunoda and finished ahead of him in the race. And after Belgium, Riccardo won qualifying and overtook his teammate in the sprints.
There are signs that the old Ricciardo we know is getting back into shape to make the most of his opportunity.
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In this article we take a closer look at his relative performances in both F1 races he’s entered this season.
The cameras were all on Riccardo as he walked with his trademark smile on the grid in his AlphaTauri race suit.
However, there were high expectations. People expected the eight-time Grand Prix winner to immediately overtake Tsunoda, which according to team principal Franz Tost, was a difficult task in his first race back.
The battle in Hungary for qualifying was fairly even with Riccardo able to ace the last corner which made the difference between the two drivers as seen by the deltas.
In particular, we can see that Tsunoda was more competitive in the high-speed corners than Riccardo, which may be due to his experience in the AlphaTauri car. Ricciardo was impressive in the mid-low speed corners as he was able to get a hold of the car quickly and drive into his sweet spot.
Riccardo expected it to be a tough race as nothing can prepare your body physically for what a grand prix does to it. What was impressive, however, was the consistency of the time around Ricciardo.
In the medium compound, Riccardo became successively faster in the first stint and then maintained a near-constant lap time in his final stint on the medium tyres. That was impressive from a driver who hadn’t been behind the wheel of an F1 car for nearly six months.
The race weekend in Belgium was full of surprises as track conditions continued to evolve. Teams and drivers had to be on their toes to make the best of the conditions.
Ricciardo had a disappointing qualifying and was unable to bank a lap at the right time, however he made amends the following day for the Sprint events
The sprint was held in semi-wet conditions. Another challenging situation for Ricciardo in a car in which he had limited experience. But the Australian managed to get past Tsunoda in SQ1 and advance to SQ2.
From the plot below we can see that Ricciardo was particularly successful coming out of T14 which gave him the grip advantage all the way to the final corner. This shows Honey Badger’s growing confidence in the car as he is able to drive on par with his teammate even in semi-wet conditions.
The sprint race was again held in semi-wet conditions. Starting P11, Ricciardo now had drivers chasing him with arguably better machinery and with more experience in their car in these conditions.
However, he showed his skills by not losing a single place to any of the drivers and eventually finished P10.
Looking at the data and the way Ricciardo is carrying himself, he looks like old Daniel, enjoying his drive and really looking forward to the competition. He looks as hungry as ever and I would expect him to shine more as the season progresses.
If it wasn’t a Red Bull seat, I’m sure eyes would be wide open at Audi and Ferrari if it starts showing up again
Shubham Sangodkar is a former F1 Aerodynamicist with a Masters in Racing Car Design specializing in F1 Aerodynamics and F1 Data Analysis. He also posts aerodynamics content on his YouTube channel, which can be found here.
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