Ricciardo hopes Japanese GP proves a morale boost

Daniel Ricciardo claimed sixth in the Japanese Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo hopes the late charge which saw him net sixth in the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix helps lift the morale of his Renault team.

Issues in qualifying left the Australian starting just 16th and came off the back of a pair of tough races in Russia and Singapore.

The team banked just three points in those two races while constructors’ championship rivals McLaren scored 16.

In Japan that slide was somewhat halted, if only by a point, leaving Ricciardo to hope it’s given the team a much needed confidence boost.

“I was thinking, ‘Same kind of crap,’ and that we can’t really get a break with issues and whatever (in qualifying), but I feel like we finally got a result we deserve,” Ricciardo said of his sixth place finish.

“We’ve got back-to-backs (races) coming up now, some fun ones, so hopefully we can get a string of points finishes and try to just get something for the team.”

The team has been somewhat inconsistent since the summer break, banking strong points in Italy after a tough Belgian Grand Prix, only to then back it up with poor showings in Singapore and Russia.

Japan was a step back in the right direction, but even then it wasn’t trouble free.

“We get there (towards the front), and then we drop, kind of the heads drop a bit, and we’re trying to get back up,” Ricciardo reasoned.

“For everyone’s sake we need to try to keep some positivity before the year is out.”

In Suzuka, team orders cam into play as Nico Hulkenberg was instructed to move aside for Ricciardo towards the back end of the race.

On a different strategy, Ricciardo had much fresher tyres and therefore greater ability to attack the queue of cars in which the two Renaults found themselves.

Speaking after the race, the Australian admitted it was he who’d triggered the team into making the switch.

“I saw that we were all in a DRS train,” Ricciardo explained.

“I think he’d (Hulkenberg) been in (Lance) Stroll’s DRS for quite a few laps, so I came on the radio – I don’t normally like to call for things – but I just said, ‘Guys if he can’t pass, release me,’ I said, ‘I’m sure I can get them’.

“I think after two laps they released me, and then I reassured them, ‘Guys I’m going to get them, trust me we’ve made the right decision,’ and obviously we did.

“I thanked them after, and I think clearly in the end it was the right call.

“I don’t always ask, because I think a lot of the time people ask looking for a favour, but I really believed I obviously had the pace and the tyre to do it, so that’s why I had a lot of confidence that once being released I could get the guys in front.”

Though netting reasonable points in Japan, they remain under a cloud as the FIA investigates Renault’s braking system following a protest by Racing Point.

Formula 1 moves to Mexico this weekend, with opening practice slated for 0200 AEDT on Saturday morning.

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