AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo lamented the slippery track surface on Formula 1’s inaugural race visit to the Las Vegas Strip Circuit, likening it to “F2 levels of grip.”
A repaved surface and cooler temperatures had several drivers on the grid fearing a lack of grip levels heading into the Las Vegas Grand Prix and plenty of them felt vindicated after experiencing the track in its maiden F1 event.
Several drivers commented that the track surface and lack of grip were indeed an issue post-race, with many calling for improvements to be implemented next year.
Safety Car intervals didn’t help the matter, with drivers likening restarts to “driving on ice” and Ricciardo was no different in criticising the low-grip surface.
“Honestly, my biggest thing was the grip level,” the Australian driver said. “I think that’s what makes Saudi actually quite a good track to drive. It’s fast, it’s a street circuit. But you can really throw the car in.”
Vegas, on the other hand, didn’t offer the sensations afforded to drivers racing around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
“You feel like you’re kind of on top of the surface,” Ricciardo continued. You feel like you’re kind of driving, I’ve never raced the F2, but it feels more like F2 levels of grip where you’re kind of always like this.
“I think on one hand people say, ‘Oh, that’s good, you’re having to wrestle the car,’ but it’s not a feeling that you get much feedback from. I think if the grip was higher, it would definitely be more enjoyable.”
Enjoyment was at a premium for Ricciardo during the Las Vegas GP as his AlphaTauri AT04 proved to be an uncompetitive package throughout the entire weekend.
Having qualified 15th, Ricciardo inherited an additional place courtesy of Lance Stroll’s five-place grid penalty, but the ex-Red Bull driver could only finish where he started.
“Look, I was coming into the race optimistic,” Ricciardo admitted. “I think there was still a bit of a reality that maybe it would be okay, maybe it won’t. Unfortunately, maybe it wasn’t.
“We knew the race start and the restarts we would struggle because we’ve just definitely missed something this weekend getting the tyre working on the slippery asphalt and when it’s still cold on a new tyre. But even with that I felt okay after a couple of laps we get some temperature and then be able to get back onto the pack.
“But we never really got there and I think the restarts didn’t help us. But yeah, that’s not an excuse. It’s just something that we lacked this weekend and we really struggled with the start of stints.”
Ricciardo concedes that things improved towards the end of the race and AlphaTauri had a “little bit more pace”. However, he professed he still didn’t have “a top 10 car.”
Luckily for Ricciardo and AlphaTauri, who sit eighth in the Constructors’ standings on 21 points, seven points behind Williams, the team’s Grove-based rivals also failed to score, offering a slim chance for the Faenza outfit to overhaul its rivals in the season finale this weekend in Abu Dhabi.
“I’m going to go glass half full,” Ricciardo concluded. “Our rivals didn’t score so it gives us a little bit more hope next week to still have a crack.”