Daniel Ricciardo was left confused and frustrated by the Formula 1® rulebook after finishing 13th in Sunday’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix, the Australian scratching his head over why he was forced to begin the restarted race one lap down on the field after being caught up in a first-turn accident.
The Scuderia AlphaTauri driver, well down on the grid in 17th place after a mistake in Friday’s qualifying eliminated him in Q1, was hit by a discarded tyre carcass from Alex Albon’s Williams after the Thai driver and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen crashed heavily at the first corner, his car needing major work in the garage after the race was red-flagged for half an hour.
While the team was able to fix Ricciardo’s broken rear wing in time for the restart, Ricciardo was dismayed to learn that he, and compatriot Oscar Piastri (McLaren) who was also caught up in the incident, would have to take the restart from the pit lane and a lap down after their cars were repaired in their respective garages.
Ricciardo argued that, given the race hadn’t completed a lap before it was halted and as he’d made it back to the pits under his own power, that he shouldn’t be one lap down when it resumed.
“I think it exposed a flaw or something in the rules, because I didn’t feel like we ever did a racing lap, but then you already start the race a lap down,” he said.
“Oscar and I fell victim to that. For me, it’s like two of us today … but if 15 cars had damage and had to do what we did, are they going to start a race with 15 cars one lap down? I don’t think so. I think they need to be a little more open-minded, so that was frustrating.”
Ricciardo said he’d seen the first-corner chaos unfolding ahead of him, but was in the wrong place at the wrong time as Albon’s tyre carcass was flicked into the air by Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas as field picked its way through the debris, and landed directly on the Australian’s car.
“The incident itself, I was at the back so I saw quite early the smoke and the debris and the chaos, then I remember seeing a tyre that had come off the rim just frisbeeing through the air,” he said.
“It started coming closer, and my instinct was to duck my head. I didn’t feel anything hit me … but after Turn 1 I checked the mirrors and I could see the rear wing was damaged so I figured the tyre got the wing.
“The team did a great job and we were ready to go on time, but then we got told we were a lap down, so really frustrating.”
While Ricciardo’s race, such as it was, was about beating Piastri given both drivers were a lap behind the rest after the restart. His pace when allowed to push left him wondering what might have been, particularly after AlphaTauri teammate Yuki Tsunoda scored points in eighth after starting one place ahead on the grid.
“We were exceptionally fast today, but we couldn’t show it because we were having to play the team game and not get in the way of Yuki’s race, or even other cars around us,” Ricciardo said after his fastest lap of the race (a 1min 13.866sec with four laps left) was beaten only by McLaren’s Lando Norris, who finished second, and race-winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing).
“The times when we did have some clear air, especially towards the end when I was able to show my speed … frustratingly fast.
“I feel for the team, because I’m not in the championship hunt … but I’m here to help the team get seventh in the (constructors’) championship and I felt I could have heavily contributed today.
“We could have got a lot of points … we could have moved through the field quite well, I believe.”
The result was in keeping with Ricciardo’s historically barren returns in Brazil, his lowest-scoring circuit of all the tracks that have been on the calendar for the entire tenure of his career since 2011.
In 12 races, Ricciardo has scored just 33 points at Interlagos, his best result coming in 2018 when he finished fourth for Red Bull.
Daniel's Sao Paulo Grand Prix by the numbers
- Sprint (24 laps): Started 8th, finished 9th
- Race (71 laps): Started 17th, finished 13th
- Fastest lap: 1min 13.866secs (3rd), lap 68
- Points this event: 0
- Points this season: 6 (17th in world championship)