Ricciardo’s last stand: Has a new chassis saved his F1 career?

Daniel Ricciardo remains hopeful that his latest move will steer his Formula 1 career back on a successful path.

The struggling Australian driver had ambitions of overshadowing his teammate Yuki Tsunoda this season, aiming for a potential seat at Red Bull Racing beside Max Verstappen in 2025.

Despite his hopes, Tsunoda has consistently outperformed Ricciardo, fuelling rumours that the upcoming Shanghai Grand Prix could mark the end of Ricciardo’s F1 journey at 34, potentially paving the way for Liam Lawson to take his place for Miami and beyond.

“Everybody in the team is shutting that down,” Ricciardo remarked before the Chinese GP. “But I do have to earn my spot. At the end of the day, if I am getting my ass whooped I don’t deserve to be here.”

After a disappointing stint at McLaren in 2022 where he lost both confidence and motivation, Ricciardo believes his situation at RB in 2024 is markedly different.

Prior to the race in China, Ricciardo requested a new chassis or monocoque from the RB team based in Faenza. Alan Permane, the sporting director, complied with the request, though he was skeptical about its impact. “The reason I say it’s ever so unlikely is because it really is,” Permane explained. “It’s not a performance differentiator.”

Nevertheless, with the new monocoque, Ricciardo unexpectedly outpaced Tsunoda in every session at Shanghai.

“We did change chassis,” Ricciardo confirmed on Saturday. “Something didn’t make me feel right with the previous one. But it’s just one track. I don’t want to jump on that yet and be like ‘It’s definitely that’. We’ll see. Hopefully I’ve got that monkey off my back but we’ll see.”

The decision to maintain Ricciardo’s position last year was predominantly influenced by Christian Horner, despite Dr Helmut Marko’s preference for Lawson to join Tsunoda for 2024.

For now, Horner continues to support the Australian driver. “It’s still early days, isn’t it?” he remarked in Shanghai. “I mean, his season hasn’t really got going yet. We’re only at race five.”

GMM

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