After a magnificent qualifying performance, Daniel Ricciardo’s Bahrain Grand Prix weekend went downhill swiftly as he dropped from sixth to 16th on the first lap and never recovered...
That was… a few things! It was a shame. It was frustrating. It was disappointing. It’s a race to forget but chances are I won’t do that very easily.
My start wasn’t great. I had a lot of wheel spin and got off the line badly. Then I arrived at the first corner on the inside – which was probably the wrong side – and braked too early and about half the field went around the outside and got past me. Then in the second sector of the lap I had contact – with whom I’m not sure – and damaged the front wing. Basically, that first lap was a complete… (word I’d rather not say!)
Whoever you are, this is going to happen from time to time. You’re supposed to blank it and get on with the race – but being brutally honest it’s hard to blank something like that. When I came around to begin the second lap I knew I was 16th, I knew I had a damaged car and I knew the advantage I’d had starting sixth had blown away. You want to pretend it’s not happening and imagine you’re going to get another chance. The pitboard says otherwise.
From then on I wasn’t going anywhere. Starting high up the grid does come at a price: Running through Q2 and Q3 means you get through a lot of tyres and don’t have any fresh ones for the race. It’s a trade-off you’re happy to make but if you do lose the advantage of position and find yourself at the back, you’re going to be racing against cars with a garage full of fresh rubber. And suddenly it doesn’t matter how quick you were on Saturday, your race on Sunday is going to be difficult – there isn’t that much of a performance gap at the moment.
'At some point I’ll be fine and looking forward to Barcelona – but I’m not there yet'
The first thing I did after the race was take a look at the data and watch a replay of the start. The good news is the procedure wasn’t too bad. I’m usually fairly relaxed on the grid. As the start approaches, I’ll put some music on a couple of minutes before getting into the car, just to get the heart rate up a bit more, and I didn’t do anything I wouldn’t normally do in Bahrain. I actually felt pretty good as I got in, and the nerves weren’t playing up. I didn’t freeze up and make a mess of the procedure – it’s just that we struggled. It’s something I’ve got to figure out. I’ll think about it before the next race.
Do I now forget about it and brush it off as just one of those things? No, of course not. I’ll dwell on it – and nothing is quite as good for dwelling as a long flight with nothing else to do. At some point I’ll be fine and looking forward to Barcelona – but I’m not there yet.
There's plenty to do before the next race. I’m in the simulator Thursday and Friday and the programme is quite busy. After the Melbourne-Sepang leg I stayed out in Australia before going on to Shanghai, so I haven’t been back to Europe since early March. The house will be freezing cold but it’ll soon warm up as I’ll have the washing machine going pretty much constantly for the rest of the week.
After a couple of days in the simulator it’s off to the factory and then down to Mugello for the test. That’s going to be full-on too. The team will undoubtedly have a few new things to try out and there’s plenty of stuff from China and Bahrain that we need to test out a little bit more under different conditions. From what the engineers tell me, we are going to have a very full job list to work through.
I haven’t driven at Mugello since 2007 when I did it in Italian Formula Renault. It was my favourite circuit during that championship and it’s one of my top five circuits in Europe – maybe one of my top five in the whole world – and in an F1 car it’s going to be awesome. The two Arrabbiata right handers are very interesting.