Ricciardo to use his head to avoid being ‘eaten up’ at Mexico start
By Ian Parkes
Monday 30th October, 2023 - 5:00am
Daniel Ricciardo believes his F1 experience will ensure he uses his head at the start of the Mexico City Grand Prix in a bid to avoid being “eaten up” by his rivals.
Ricciardo delivered a stunning qualifying display in his AlphaTauri in which he will line up fourth on the grid at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the Australian’s best performance since the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix.
If Ricciardo is to prove the AT04 has pace in race trim and not just over one lap, he knows a good start is crucial given one of the longest runs into an opening corner on the F1 calendar.
Ricciardo appreciates there will be mixed emotions at the start as he will quickly have to weigh up the situation around him going into Turn 1.
“Lap one will be ‘get your elbows out’ but nothing too crazy,” said Ricciardo. “But then if you’re too conservative, from fourth on the grid, going into Turn 1 you could end up ninth or something. You get eaten up pretty quickly here.
“The nice thing is that being towards the front you normally stay a bit more out of the chaos, and obviously the mid-pack gets a little crazy.
“That should hopefully help our cause in getting through the first few corners a bit cleaner.
“You still have to race pretty hard to not get eaten up, though, but I’m experienced. Hopefully, I’ll use my head and it should be good.”
Despite Ricciardo’s superb qualifying, during which he was one of the few drivers who was consistent throughout as he was third, fourth, and fourth quickest respectively across the three sessions, the question now is whether he can finish in that position.
Asked by Speedcafe whether he has a P4 racecar, he replied: “Part of me, says ‘Why not?’ because I had genuine pace (in qualifying), and all weekend, I’ve felt that if I put a lap together, we were always a top-six car.
“By default, you expect the top teams to have a little bit more race pace, and (be better) with tyre management, but part of me also feels there is no reason why we can’t fight at the front tomorrow.”
From a week ago at the United States GP weekend, Ricciardo has delivered a night-and-day performance, although he recognises that on his F1 return after a five-race, two-month lay-off, the fact it was a sprint event did not help his cause.
Explaining the about-turn, he said: “To be honest, definitely on my side, we changed the car quite a bit from last week.
“We’d already made some changes in Zandvoort (Dutch GP) for FP2, the session in which I crashed. For the few laps I did, I remember being competitive on the hard.
“I felt ‘Alright, this is kind of the direction where we should start going with setup’, but then with Austin last week, we didn’t really have enough knowledge of it with obviously the one (practice) session. You kind of have to race what you bring.
“So I was very excited to come into this weekend, try it, and see what it felt like.
“With my driving style, and where I’m at with the car, it was a direction that made me feel a little bit more confident.
“The car has been good to me, and I felt good enough, but this has allowed me to just lean on it a little harder.”