Ten days on from his glum exit at the Monaco Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo was smiling again on Thursday when, after patching things up with his Red Bull team, he said he was hoping for success at this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.
The 26-year-old Aussie, who was a disgruntled second behind defending champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in Monte Carlo, admitted he had needed “a few days” to recover from the pit-stop bungle that cost him victory in Monaco.
But, he added, he had regained and retained his faith in Red Bull’s potential after a lengthy telephone conversation with team boss Christian Horner and the proposed introduction of new strategy software to fix their pit-stop problems.
“There will be some new software for strategy and live stuff during the race that can make us more prepared and, if there are late calls again, ensure everything is put in place,” said Ricciardo.
“I had some questions to ask and they (Red Bull) answered them with some confidence and I heard what I needed to hear...”
Flanked by two of the sport’s veteran drivers in 2007 champion Finn Kimi Raikkonen, of Ferrari, and 2009 champion Briton Jenson Button, of McLaren, the ambitious Perth racer cut a much calmer figure than the frustrated one who departed Monaco.
“I was happy to keep some distance for a few days and, for myself as well, it wasn't probably healthy to address it straight away,” he told a news conference at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve late on Thursday, after confirming that he did not speak to the team after the race last month.
“For a few days, I was upset I guess… And, obviously, ruing some missed opportunities, but it’s one of those things. It happens… It is unfortunate that it happened, back to back, after Spain.
“That expanded the feelings and emotion a lot more, but I have moved on. I still have a lot of faith in the team and I don’t doubt things with them moving forward.
“For me, it is really important this weekend to execute a perfect weekend – we have a good car and good material. For me, now, it is about trying to maximise it…
“The last few weekends, I felt I should have got more. We want to leave on Sunday night knowing we have maximised everything, from both sides.”
He explained that he had finally spoken to the team by telephone, after taking a few days to calm down.
“It was all over the phone,” he said, referring to his rapprochement with the team. “I let it cool for a couple of days and then Christian (Horner) apologized, on everyone’s behalf, and he explained what went down – and why there was confusion and why the tyres weren’t ready.
“So that, really, was the phone call. Then, I spoke to my engineer Simon (Rennie) later in the week, after they had spent a few days in the factory, to hear what they had put in place.
“I questioned the second pit stop, where we lost the race. I questioned the first one as well, as I thought we put ourselves in a race with Lewis (Hamilton) that we didn’t need to be in.
“He said they weren’t looking into it, but acknowledged it was a mistake...”
Having expressed his feelings, and freed himself of his emotions, Ricciardo said he was ready to bounce back in style this weekend in one of the most demanding races of the year.
“Realistically, I think Mercedes are still the ones to beat, but I hope we can be the next best,” he said, acknowledging, too, that Hamilton’s win in Monaco had revived his title defence ahead of one his favourite races.
The 31-year-old Briton claimed his first F1 victory at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix and has since added three more triumphs including last year when he won for Mercedes.
“Montreal has always been a good track for me so, hopefully, I'm able to shine again like I did the first time I went there, in that great city atmosphere," said the defending three-time world champion.
“I think I have proved that I am as strong as ever again and I will be for the rest of the year. There’s a long way to go in the championship and we’ve seen from the first six races that anything is possible.”
Hamilton’s win on the unforgiving street circuit of Monte Carlo was his first in seven months since clinching his third title triumph in Texas last year and, with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg finishing seventh, he cut the German’s lead from 43 to 24 points.
A similar result on the Canadian track, where brakes are tested severely and grip is always a challenge, would blow this year’s title race wide open again after seven of the 21 rounds.
Ricciardo, however, hopes he can also be in the mix and continue the form that has seen him register four fourths and a runners-up spot in the opening six races.
But he may face a strong challenge, too, from Ferrari who are introducing an upgraded engine package. “We don’t expect miracles, but it should be a step forward,” said Raikkonen. “But let’s see what happens…”