Daniel Ricciardo admits he felt there was “a little missing” during Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix as he trailed home a disappointing 16th.
After stringing together an impressive weekend upon his return to the grid in Hungary, Ricciardo’s prospects for the race at Spa-Francorchamps were immediately hampered by failing to progress beyond Q1 in qualifying on Friday evening.
The Australian was set to accompany team-mate Yuki Tsunoda into the second stage before his final run was deleted for a track limits infringement, leaving him 19th.
While Tsunoda, who eventually qualified 11th, utilised an exceptional opening lap to return AlphaTauri to the points, Ricciardo was unable to make the same headway.
Although Ricciardo reckons a stronger result was possible with a better starting position, he concedes that the pace was lacking on his side of the garage in Belgium.
“Honestly, it was tough in traffic,” he rued. “Maybe a race with more clear air could’ve been better, but in general I’m not convinced we had great pace today.
“It felt like we never got the peak out of the tyres, and we couldn’t generate enough grip in the second sector. When we were in clear air later in the race, I felt we were more competitive, but in traffic, it was definitely hard.”
With the early stages of qualifying and the Sprint events on Saturday hampered by rain, Sunday’s race marked the first proper dry-running Ricciardo got in the AT04 at Spa.
The eight-time F1 race winner, therefore, believes that encountering uncharted territory contributed to his failure to make sufficient progress throughout the race.
Ricciardo also underlines that he will be taking the opportunity provided by the summer break to improve his fitness ahead of the second half of the season.
“The reality is, these were my first dry laps in this car on this track, and I don’t know this car that well yet, so I still felt there was a little missing, but we’ll figure it out.
“Many are now looking forward to a well-deserved holiday, but the situation is slightly different for me as the break is a good chance for me to keep working behind the scenes. After a few days off, I’ll spend time in the gym and use my days training, to be able to further improve on my race fitness.”
AlphaTauri Technical Director Jody Egginton supported Ricciardo’s claims but suggests his strong run in Saturday’s Sprint Race demonstrated progress was still made.
Ricciardo was clinging onto eighth place in the truncated 11-lap race until both George Russell and Esteban Ocon denied him notching the first point of his comeback.
“It was more difficult for Daniel, as he spent a good part of the race in traffic,” Egginton acknowledged.
“We weren’t able to get him into free air to put together a strong sequence of laps, as he was able to do in Hungary to good effect.
“It was unfortunate, however, his strong performance in the Sprint race yesterday highlights we are making progress.”