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Formula 1

Get angry? Ricciardo's plan to save his second F1 career

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
6 min read

In the search for some consistency since getting his second Formula 1 chance with Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo thinks he may have found the remedy: more intensity, and a bit of anger.

This is an important moment in Ricciardo’s second F1 career, having stopped the rot with a good Canadian Grand Prix weekend that was very well-timed given it followed new Red Bull contract announcements for Sergio Perez (at Red Bull Racing) and Yuki Tsunoda (at RB, where Ricciardo’s still not confirmed for 2025).

Ricciardo’s trying not to view the Perez news as proof he won’t ever get a chance at Red Bull again himself, but he is holding himself accountable for missing out on this chance and accepts he has not done enough for that top seat.

More importantly, he is aware that he is vulnerable at RB, with Liam Lawson and even Formula 2 title contender Isack Hadjar waiting in the wings. Hence, Canada being so important. Ricciardo needs to address what has eliminated him from Red Bull consideration: a lack of performance, particularly on a consistent basis.

“In China, when I got the new chassis, and the weekend was looking better, and then Miami started well, I said, 'All right; [this] could be it',” Ricciardo said at the start of the Montreal weekend. “But then I have a couple runs of maybe not so good races.

“What's good is obviously I still have the ability to do some pretty cool things, pretty special, or whatever.

“It's just making sure that that is me unconditionally, and it's not just, 'Oh, when I'm feeling good', or when conditions are right.

“Because it's been a few races now this year and I haven't quite had the consistency I wanted, I'm just trying to make sure I'm not missing some things - in preparation, the weeks leading up to races.”

That, it turned out, was a hint at something that transpired after the Monaco Grand Prix - which Ricciardo only elaborated on later in the Canada weekend.

Ricciardo revealed he went through some “self-therapy” after Monaco and had questioned things he might be doing wrong “away from the track”. He is such a major commercial asset to Red Bull, the RB team and its partners, but the indication is he’s been feeling stretched from too many extra activities - a sentiment he’s also expressed in the past.

He invited his team and close contacts to give him “constructive criticism” and asked them “what do you think is going wrong?”, which led to a “very open chat”.

“We've certainly tried to alter some things, and of course the sponsors that are helping us race and pay the bills, we have to give them time, but it's probably the little five minutes here and five minutes there that maybe we don't need to be doing,” he said after the race.

“Sometimes it's random stuff. It's not even that I should be sitting in my room staring at the ceiling. That time could be with the engineers and everyone's mind can be put at ease that we've done our homework and we're prepared to jump in the car.

“All these little one per cents that just help everyone's mindset, then when we get into the session we feel like we're ready to go.”

As a case study, Canada could easily have gone away from Ricciardo and ended up being another defeat to Tsunoda. It was Tsunoda who was actually the quicker driver in qualifying but he underachieved in Q3, and although he got ahead of Ricciardo in the race through strategy he threw that away with an uncharacteristic (for this year) spin.

Still, that’s not to say Ricciardo’s result was undeserved. He correctly calls this the first weekend that went well from start to finish. But alone, it cannot correct the narrative of his time alongside Tsunoda - in 2024, and back to last year.

In the 16 events he and Tsunoda have competed in as team-mates since Ricciardo returned to the F1 grid in the middle of 2023, Tsunoda is 1.4 grid places better off on average, 1.9 places better off on average finishing positions, and has scored 34 points to Ricciardo’s 15.

If 2024 is taken in isolation, those numbers get more damning for Ricciardo. Tsunoda’s averaging a grid position of 10.0 compared to Ricciardo’s 12.7, and on finishing positions it’s 10.6 for Tsunoda and 12.1 for Ricciardo. And that’s despite Ricciardo qualifying fifth and finishing eighth in Canada, giving his numbers a big assist.

He’s still starting, on average, one or two rows further back, and giving himself too much to do, whereas Tsunoda has largely been a proven, consistent points threat despite the car only being the fifth or sixth fastest.

This all seemed to come to a head for Ricciardo after Monaco, and the post-race conversation there led to a weight off his chest going into Canada.

Ricciardo doesn’t think it’s a coincidence his weekend immediately felt smoother. Asked by The Race if this felt like a possible turnaround, Ricciardo replied: “There's certainly some hope that it is.

“I've got to repeat it and back it up to show that or prove it.

“I definitely am happy with some things that I mentioned [before], that I acknowledged since Monaco, and I really do feel that it's no coincidence that this weekend went a bit smoother.

“It's just making sure that we keep on that, keep tapping into it and make sure that I'm holding myself accountable and not getting too relaxed and happy-go-lucky - making sure I keep that edge about me.”

If the greater focus around his race weekends is part of the solution, there is no time like the present to prove it. F1’s first triple-header of 2024 giving Ricciardo a quick-fire run of races to build a much-needed run of form.

And the pressure that he is under to secure his seat now Tsunoda has been confirmed - leaving Ricciardo in a likely fight with Lawson - might actually be to Ricciardo’s benefit.

When he talks about keeping the “edge” and not being too relaxed, that taps into something that has often defined Ricciardo’s F1 career. He’s often felt at his best when he is in a ‘time for me to take f*****g charge’ moment - that’s won him races and earned him podiums that lesser drivers would not have achieved.

Maybe now’s the time that comes in handy for a different kind of fight. It probably didn’t hurt that Canada was dominated by other Red Bull drivers getting their deals announced, and accompanied by a public hammering from Jacques Villeneuve.

“I’ve just got to keep it rolling,” he said. “That little [extra] energy, probably with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, I brought into the weekend, I've got to make sure that stays there. Try to keep that level of intensity.

“Sometimes I’ve been a little…I don't know. If I need to be a bit angry or get my testosterone up, I think it helps me.”

If fighting for his future cannot tap into that, nothing will.

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