‘Fundamental issue’ hurting Ricciardo
DANIEL Ricciardo was telling fans to stay patient before the start of the F1 season but the Australian star wanted his move to Renault to run a bit smoother.
Now his horror start to the 2019 F1 season has the 29-year-old rethinking his expectations.
Renault were making all the right noises in the pre-season and hoped to close the gap on the big three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
And when speaking in early March, Ricciardo was positive about the season with Renault, who though they were a long way back had finished 2018 fourth in the constructors championship.
"I think, in a way, the exciting thing for Renault is that the last few years it is no secret that we have always been playing catch-up with the power unit, so the positive with that is we always feel there is more to gain than the others," Ricciardo said.
"So from that I will obviously always stay optimistic and feel that in that development we can find a bit more in the season and keep closing the gap."
After two races, what's been his biggest issue? The power unit.
Ricciardo now has a perfect record of retirement in 2019.
He confirmed his Bahrain race was ended by a power unit malfunction, the same issue that ended Renault-powered McLaren driver Carlos Sainz' drive in Australia.
F1 commentator Martin Brundle was asked about the issue after Renault lost both Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg on the same lap in Bahrain.
"More worrying, if it's the same problem that Carlos Sainz had, they're carrying a fairly fundamental issue there," Brundle said.
"It's been an awful start - and we don't need Renault struggling."
Coming into the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend - where Ricciardo is defending champion - the 29-year-old Aussie star said it has taken extra time to get used to stepping down from the big three.
"I knew it would take time, but in my heart, I just expected to jump in the car first lap and be like 'sweet, we are going to be good'," he said.
"So coming a step back as far as grip and handling, it is no secret that we are not on the pace of the car I had last year. So that is something I need to figure out again."
The Australian star's retirements have left him frustrated, coming off a season where he had eight retirements with Red Bull.
Ricciardo decided to go with Renault, who provided the engine in his 2018 season before Red Bull switched to Honda.
Unfortunately the gamble hasn't paid off for Ricciardo yet.
But Ferrari's gamble to go with Charles Leclerc has so far.
The Aussie star, who came out of Toro Rosso before going to Red Bull, said the success of Leclerc reminds him of his early years.
"In Charles' situation coming up to his (Ferrari) seat this year, it is a bit like me when I came from Toro Rosso to Red Bull," Ricciardo said.
"Everything becomes easier, you have more grip, and it is like 'oh wow the car can do this'?
"So it is a bit of patience and discipline for me, but that is cool. It is challenging in itself to learn that and figure it out, in a way that is exciting so that is cool."
Ricciardo is hoping he can get on the board in 2019 at the Chinese Grand Prix.
His win last year was a huge result, rising from sixth to the lead in less than 20 laps, overtaking Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas on the way.
But at this point, he's not confident of a repeat success with another issue plaguing his move to Renault.
"I'm carrying quite a bit of entry speed at the moment, but killing everything on the exit," he said.
"I'm probably used to carrying a lot of entry speed. In a way, part of it could be overdriving with the current grip I've got.
"I made some comments (in Bahrain about) the way the car responded, and I was a bit surprised, but he (Nico Hulkenberg) said that is just normal, that is how this car is.
"So I'm trying to learn from his experience with it, it is getting there. The positive for me is that I still know that there is a lot from me to still gain from this car. The way I see it is that it is only going to get better."
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