Daniel Ricciardo came to rue a failed team strategy from AlphaTauri as the Australian settled for 17th place at the United States Grand Prix in his first Formula One race since returning from a broken hand.
Ricciardo made a strong start after starting 15th, climbing up to 10th place and as high seventh as a result of some pit stops and early retirements around him.
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Max rants about ‘s***’ car… from 1st | 00:39
But sadly that’s as good as it got for the veteran, who crossed the line 17th — dead last out of the drivers who finished the race.
AlphaTauri decided to bring Ricciardo in for a very late pit stop, which inadvertently slowed down Lewis Hamilton who was then briefly stuck behind his dirty air as he attempted a late charge at Max Verstappen for the race victory.
Verstappen won his 15th race of the season ahead of Hamilton and Lando Norris.
The bigger issue though for Ricciardo was the fact that the team’s one-stop strategy did not pay off.
“The one-stop strategy wasn’t working. He’s put the soft tyres on and just set the fastest lap of the race,” Brundle said in commentary of Ricciardo.
On-board footage also showed AlphaTauri’s pit crew extracting a chunky piece of debris from the front of Ricciardo’s car that certainly wouldn’t have helped his race pace.
Max blows up FOUR times on the radio | 01:59
“Texas hasn’t been too kind,” Ricciardo said.
“At the start, we were doing well with our plan, but the problem was once the cars with blue flags came up behind us, we lost too much. We seemed to struggle in traffic and then picked up some damage later on, so after that, we lacked pace.
“On the medium compound, we were doing the same lap times as Yuki, but because I was on a one-stop, there was a bit more tyre management going on for me. Physically, I feel better today than yesterday, so the Sprint race was a good warmup for the Grand Prix.
“I got more race mileage, and there’s a lot to learn from this race, so now it’s full attack for Mexico.”
AlphaTauri technical director Jody Egginton confirmed Ricciardo’s pace dropped off as a result of the damage his car sustained.
“Daniel’s race was more difficult later on, but he also put in a very well-managed first stint, opening up strategy options for him,” Eggington said.
“However, soon after his first stop, he picked up damage to brake duct parts, resulting in a significant loss of aero load and aero balance, meaning he was unable to run at the pace he was capable of and fell back into the chasing pack.
“Later on, we took the gamble to stop and try to resolve the issue in case of a late race Safety Car. Although we improved the car balance at the stop, the race finished without incidents, providing no opportunity to move him forward.”
The late pit stop allowed Ricciardo to record the fastest lap of the race but his teammate Yuki Tsunoda snagged the championship point by beating Ricciardo’s lap time on the very last lap.
Only drivers who finish in the top 10 can get an extra point for fastest lap.
Tsunoda finished 10th to claim two championship points, while Ricciardo walked away empty handed.
It was a brutal way to end the race for Ricciardo, who admitted after Saturday’s Sprint he had a bit of “race rust” after missing five grands prix with injury.
“I don’t like saying it because I’m very experienced but this year not so experienced… but a bit of race rust,” he said.
It was also a day to forget for the other Australian on the grid as Oscar Piastri was forced to retire from the race in the early stages.
The rookie had a superb start but suffered damage to his car’s radiator as a result of an accidental collision with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon at the start.
United States Grand Prix results
1) Max Verstappen
2) Lewis Hamilton
3) Lando Norris
4) Carlos Sainz
5) Sergio Perez
6) Charles Leclerc
7) George Russell
8) Pierre Gasly
9) Lance Stroll
10) Yuki Tsuonda