Ricciardo Feels “A Lot Like My Old Self” After Shock P4 in Mexico F1 Qualifying
In only his second weekend back from a hand injury that ruled him out of five grands prix rounds, Ricciardo had already showed good pace on Friday when he was sixth in FP2.
He slipped back to ninth in Saturday’s FP3 session, however in qualifying Ricciardo was on form as he took fourth in Q1 and fifth in Q2.
On both occasions he was helped by team-mate Yuki Tsunoda, who was able to focus on towing Ricciardo down the straights and give him a slipstream boost.
Speaking about his strong qualifying performance, Ricciardo said: “I haven’t been [P4] in a few years, so it’s nice to see my name in that column again. It does certainly activate some [emotions] where you say ‘I remember this’.”
Ricciardo admitted that he has been struggling to find his rhythm since joining McLaren this year, but is starting to feel more comfortable with the car and the team.
“This year I’ve got some new references and the car has felt quite different,” he explained. “At times it’s felt unnatural or hasn’t come to me straightaway, and I’m not used to that feeling.
“But now it starts to feel like someone else’s car, like my old self’s car, and you start to get maybe not a complete comfort but familiarity.
“I think now the unfamiliar feeling is starting to go away and the familiar feelings are starting to return.”
Ricciardo also credits McLaren for their work in helping him adapt to the car and regain his confidence.
“I think we’ve certainly done some things even already this weekend to change the car and I’ve been happier with it change-wise, and that’s helped,” he said.
“The team has done a really good job of understanding. It hasn’t been easy for me to feel how I wanted to feel in this car this year.
“But finally, I think the first time since Hungary, Monza, I genuinely felt ‘wow, this is fun’. And [the result] shows performance went up as well.”
Ricciardo’s strong qualifying performance sets him up for a potential podium challenge in Sunday’s race. With Max Verstappen starting from pole position, and Sergio Perez alongside him on the front row, Ricciardo will have a good opportunity to battle with the Red Bull drivers and potentially secure a top-three finish.
As the Formula 1 season nears its conclusion, Ricciardo will be hoping to gather momentum and build on his improved performance as he aims to finish the year on a high note.