A drive-through penalty wrecked Daniel Ricciardo's Japanese Grand Prix, but he's trying to put it behind him as the F1 circus rolls on to India.
Sometimes the whole weekend revolves around just one decision. I’m fairly sure without collecting a drive-through penalty I’d be leaving Suzuka with a good haul of points and feeling deeply satisfied with our weekend’s work. Instead I’m leaving… well, let’s say unsatisfied.
I was and am genuinely surprised that the stewards penalised me for the pass on Sutil. When my engineer told me I’d picked up a penalty, it never crossed my mind it was for that. Earlier in the race when I was out-of-sequence on the hard tyre I’d collected a big train of cars behind me so I thought perhaps I’d done something dirty then.
I thought possibly I’d weaved when I was defending from Hülkenberg, or maybe cut him off without noticing. I didn’t think I had but it’s difficult to judge with the mirrors. When I heard what it was actually for… as I say, surprised.
Moving on, if you can disregard the eventual result – believe me, right now that’s difficult – I had a really good day. In Korea last week I don’t think I could’ve done a better job and it’s much the same here. I think we maximised the potential of what we had this weekend and I’m very pleased with the way I drove.
Again, when the blankets came off I was on the hard tyre when everyone else was on the medium. It worked out OK last week but perhaps even better here. I got a good start, grabbed a couple of places and was flying. I felt very comfortable on the prime tyre at the start of the race, so much so I’m really surprised more people didn’t take that route.
Passing Sutil around the outside at 130R was a brilliant sensation. Maybe that corner doesn’t hold the terrors it once did but trust me, there was definitely clenching going on. In fact if the on-board footage emerges you’ll see me having a little fist-pump as soon as I was through the chicane and in the clear. I was really jacked-up. It was cool. Shame I got clobbered for it.
The whole circuit’s great, of course. I enjoy all the track but particularly Turns Eight and Nine. Degner. Through Eight you’re hanging on, it’s so narrow and there’s no room for error but you want to push as hard as you can. Then just as you straighten up the car, you’re on the brakes and throwing it into this cambered right-hander. Getting to do that 53 times in a row is a pretty good way to earn a living.
Another cool thing today, the Drivers’ Parade, which I did in a vintage AC Cobra. It was a lovely bit of kit but my driver was a little stressed: as we set off the temperature gauges were red-lining. It didn’t look good. Fortunately once we hit some clean air it calmed down a bit, which saved me the embarrassment of having to thumb a lift back to the pitlane.
Generally, I quite enjoy the parade. It’s good to look around the track and see how many people have come out to support F1 – but when you come to a place like this it has real wow! factor. It motivates you and gets you excited for the race. I don’t really need that push but I like to have it all the same.
And with that I’m off back to Monaco. No sim work in England, no appearances on the schedule, just a week of training and then off to beautiful India.