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Wrong tyre call sparked first-lap smash, admits Ricciardo

Matt Clayton
Monday, 8 April 2024

Daniel Ricciardo says the decision to start Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix on medium tyres was a mistake that left him vulnerable to the first-lap crash that took him out of the race after two corners.

Daniel Ricciardo was left to rue his decision to start Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix on the medium-compound Pirelli tyre after he was “gobbled up” at the start of the race before crashing out with Williams driver Alex Albon.

Ricciardo, who qualified 11th, was on his back foot immediately as the lights went out for the race start, with the RB driver and teammate Yuki Tsunoda both going backwards as the six cars immediately behind them on the grid, all on soft tyres, leapt forwards into the first corner.


Wary of Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) to his left at Turn 2, Ricciardo moved across on the racing line to take the left-hander at Turn 3 and made contact with Albon, who was attempting to slither past the Australian after qualifying three places behind.

Albon’s left-front wheel made contact with Ricciardo’s right rear, both cars ending up in the barrier and causing a red flag. Both drivers were unscathed in the heavy impact, and Ricciardo was left frustrated after a weekend of progress was over two corners into the 53-lap race.

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"I didn't see him,” Ricciardo said of Albon after the race.

“I always assume maybe someone is there, it's lap one, so I never tried to use the full width of the track and be completely ignorant. But there was obviously not enough room. His traction was so much better on the soft that he was like ‘well, there's space’ … until there wasn't.

“If we could wind back the clock an hour, I would have started on the soft (tyre) but for the record, I wanted to be on the medium. But knowing what we know now, the soft would have been a lot better for us. Myself and Yuki had a pretty poor getaway, we definitely got gobbled up on that medium, and all the cars behind us on the softs got us quite easily.”

The first-lap DNF – just Ricciardo’s third in a 13-year career – left him with an incomplete feeling after a Suzuka weekend which, following an underwhelming home race in Australia a fortnight earlier, showed signs of progress.

Friday was a non-event for Ricciardo in Japan – he relinquished his car to Red Bull-backed Japanese Super Formula driver Ayumu Iwasa in FP1 before FP2 was ruined by intermittent rain – which meant his Saturday efforts were cause for optimism. He missed out a place inside the top 10 by five-hundredths of a second to teammate Tsunoda in qualifying, and had high hopes of pushing forwards to points in the race, which the local driver achieved with 10th place to become the first Japanese to score at home in 12 years.

“A lap one incident is definitely the worst thing as a driver,” Ricciardo said.

“After yesterday (in qualifying) we were feeling alright and excited for a good day, and it all fell away straight away. There’s this massive build-up, and then you feel like you have this massive energy you don’t know what to do with. It’s racing, it happens every now and then which is part of it.

“I don't look at today and think ‘oh, man this year’, ‘when it rains, it pours’, or whatever. I feel it was just one of those things. These things can happen and it obviously sucks when they do, but I don't look at it any more than today being a kind of singular incident.”

Daniel Ricciardo at the Japanese Grand Prix

Daniel's Japanese Grand Prix by the numbers

  • Qualified: 11th
  • Race: DNF (crash, lap 1)
  • Fastest lap: N/A
  • Points this event: 0
  • Points this season: 0 (17th in world championship)