The Red Bull Junior driver, out on loan at HRT, never appeared on camera during the race, but nevertheless put in a performance that will give him considerable satisfaction going into the summer break.
While four laps of the leaders’ pace, Ricciardo finished a lap up on team-mate Tonio Liuzzi and Virgin’s Jérôme D’Ambrosio. His qualifying had been a tenth of a second off that of the experienced Liuzzi, suggesting very strongly the young Australian was starting to figure out how to extract pace from the HRT. His performance in the race seemed to confirm that...
RB: Daniel, that looked like your most competitive outing so far – did you think the same inside the cockpit?
DR: Yeah, though I’ll have to look into it because I’m not really sure how we went. I’m not sure if I had good luck or a better strategy or if we were genuinely faster but after the race people in the team came up to me and said I drove well, so, I guess that means we had pretty good pace. So yeah, it’s very positive and we’re definitely making progress. I’m pretty happy with today, especially because those were difficult conditions.
'It’s very positive and we’re definitely making progress'
You went for a three-stopper, that seemed to be the strategy of choice for most of the drivers who are happy this evening…
I can’t remember! Yeah, three stops. We started on the inters like everyone else, then went supersoft, supersoft, soft. I felt more comfortable on that final stint on the prime tyre. The supersoft was OK but it had a shorter life and at the end, to get a longer stint out of the prime, we had to time it well to make sure we didn’t have to pit again. I’m very satisfied with how that turned out.
Looking at the timing sheets it seems like you had quite a lonely afternoon again. Does that turn a race into an extended testing session?
Honestly, when you are driving by yourself towards the end of the race, rather than being involved in a fight, then yeah, it’s about you and it’s an extended test session. You try to stay consistent and try to learn something about the car and how it behaves. It’s a lot more fun if you’re fighting someone, and also that makes the race go quicker. When you’re by yourself it seems like it’s going on forever.
At least today, even though I was by myself, I was able to get that consistency and I had the feeling that my pace was pretty good relative to what the car is ultimately capable of. That’s encouraging, which also means it’s less boring.
'When you’re by yourself it seems like it’s going on forever'
Other drivers say the Hungaroring is a physically demanding track…
It is pretty tough. There aren’t many straights, every sector is very involved. You get a little bit of a rest on the start-finish line, but it’s pretty much into it for the rest of the lap. It’s good. I really enjoy the second sector: you have lots of direction change, so it keeps you busy. I think I learned a lot today. Finishing the race is good for me and in difficult conditions I learned a lot about how to manage the tyres. It’s another tick in the box and more knowledge up in the head. It’s also going to help my level of fitness.
So, you’re knackered…?
Actually I feel pretty good! When people come up to you, pat you on the back and say ‘good race’, that makes me smile and lifts me up. I honestly feel quite good and positive, because physically I think I’ve held up well in my first three races in the F1 Championship. I assume I’ll get stronger and it’ll only feel easier once I do a few more.
'Physically I think I’ve held up well in my first three races'
What does the summer break hold for you: vacation or training?
I’ve got a few PR events. I go to Austria tomorrow and then Italy for the rest of the week, doing some stuff for Red Bull, so the first week’s not really much of a holiday, though I might be able to sneak a couple of days in Italy and search for some proper weather. Then it’s back in England the following week for a bit of training before my World Series by Renault race at Silverstone. So, it’s a shorter break for me. Not enough time to go back to Australia, put it that way.
Looking ahead to Spa at the end of August, do you think you’re on the pace of the car now, or do you think there’s more to come?
I think there should be a bit more. I hope there is because I’m close to Tonio on raw pace in qualifying but still not close enough, and definitely not a bit ahead, which of course is where I’d like to be. So, I think there’s a bit more in it, and I guess it just comes with time. I felt yesterday I drove a good lap, but he was just over a tenth quicker than me. So he drove a better lap. We’re in the same car so I’m sure there’s a few things I can learn – mostly about the tyre actually; he did his best lap on his first flying lap and I did mine on the second – so I think if I can learn how to get more out of the tyre on the first lap then maybe the time will naturally come.
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