Daniel Ricciardo is “curious” – rather than apprehensive – to see how his Renault handles itself around the Monaco circuit after growing accustomed to having such a receptive Red Bull in the principality.
The Australian has traditionally been one of the favourites going into the Monaco weekend, famously winning there last year after, most infamously, being robbed of his 2016 victory after an atrocious pitstop while leading.
He also finished third twice – making it four podium finishes in total – as well as two pole positions, but he will have to get used to battling further back again this year.
However, while Ricciardo accepts it will be far more difficult with Renault, he believes Monaco is a driver’s track, where the man in the cockpit can make far more of a difference than usual.
“I’m actually really curious to go to Monaco, I’m curious to see how it all feels,” he said. “I’m excited to go back there because I’ve always loved it.
“I think of Kubica putting it on P2 a few years ago, Maldonado, he was always a bit of a Monaco beast at getting the car at the time a bit further up.
“I’m definitely optimistic that if I can drive the track the way I want to drive it then I can get the car further up than maybe it might be on a normal track. Whether further up means the top six or top five, we’ll see. I’m excited.”
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where both Renaults failed to finish, is seen as a small indicator of how cars will perform in Monaco, but Ricciardo insists it is all about confidence this weekend.
“To be honest, not really,” he added when asked about Baku’s influence.
“I think we run quite low downforce and even a bit stiffer around Baku. Monaco is quite unique, but I think the biggest thing is confidence.
“On Thursday, all I’ll want to do is get out of myself to be confident with the car and have the confidence to tackle the kerbs and brake where I want to brake. I think, if I can get that, then I’ll be able to do something.”
Daniel Ricciardo ‘forgets’ he was racing Romain Grosjean
And with no team or driver is currently contracted to stay in F1 beyond 2020 as it stands, the sport is in real danger of shooting itself in the foot.
Sebastian Vettel was left disillusioned by the sport in Canada last time out and after his appeal against the five-second penalty which stripped him of his maiden win of the season was rejected he even mentioned retirement – albeit jokingly.
But while Vettel was joking with that comment, viewers will be turned off the more drivers are being prevented from racing.
Daniel Ricciardo is the latest victim of this.
The French Grand Prix was, in truth, more of a procession than a race with the top four drivers never in any danger of either overtaking or being overtaken. All of the action came behind them, and most of it revolved around Ricciardo.
His signature overtakes were small glimpses of excitement in an otherwise dull race and the gripping four-way battle for seventh place was the best storyline of the weekend.
Less than a second separated all four drivers going into the final lap as the McLaren of Lando Norris was stalked by the Australian, Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg.
Ricciardo made up five seconds in two laps to challenge the rookie and their battle allowed the two other drivers to close in as well.
And just as we were about to watch the climax to this enthralling battle, TV directors decide fans would be much better off watch Lewis Hamilton cruise home for the sixth time this season with not another car in sight.
“I hear they didn’t even show it live on TV,” Ricciardo bemoaned after the race. “So bit a joke – it was the only battle on track.”
That left viewers scrambling through Twitter to try and ascertain what had happened which saw all four drivers overtake each other according to the infographic on the side of the screen.
Even commentators David Croft and Martin Brundle had no idea what had happened.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, it all proved for nothing as Ricciardo was pinged not once, but twice, with two five-second penalties, dropping him from seventh to 11th.
For him, the drama, the stuff the fans have been crying out for more of, was quite literally pointless.
It also robbed Renault of a second consecutive double points finish, dealing them a further blow in their bid to retain their ‘best of the rest’ tag.
Fans may celebrate Ricciardo’s cojones for taking on such manoeuvres, but given the reluctance of the stewards to favour racing over the rules, do you really think Renault will encourage him to do that again?
Absolutely not. The risk is not worth the reward for them or any other team in this tense midfield battle, for that matter.
Yes, strictly speaking the stewards are in the right, but there was no contact and no real danger.
“I’d rather try than sit behind and be a loser the whole race,” Ricciardo said afterwards.
Drivers want to be allowed to race and fans want to be allowed to watch them do it, but the sport is shackled by stringent, anti-entertainment rules.
The latest consequence of that was six points to Ricciardo and Renault, but to the future of F1 it could be so much more costly.
Daniel Ricciardo has struggled to keep his cool after copping two post-race five second penalties to strip him of the points he won during the French Grand Prix.
The Australian battled hard all race to slash McLaren rival Lando Norris’ advantage over him before overtaking the Brit and Kimi Raikkonen as part of a thrilling midfield fight on the final lap of the race.
That saw Ricciardo cross the line in P7, ahead of Raikkonen, teammate Nico Hulkenberg and Norris respectively as Lewis Hamilton again took the chequered flag.
Daniel Ricciardo ‘forgets’ he was racing Romain Grosjean
He was further vindicated as his Red Bull replacement Pierre Gasly failed to finish inside the top 10 and claimed no points.
However, Ricciardo, Norris and Raikkonen were all called to the stewards to explain themselves after the race and the Renault man was dished out two five-second penalties, one for the overtake on Norris and one for the move on Raikkonen.
That dropped Ricciardo all the way down to 11th and out of the points, with Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Norris and Gasly all being promoted as a result.
“F*** em all, how does that sound?” Ricciardo said of any critics before putting his serious hat on.
“All jokes aside, every time I’m breaking late and deep, trying to make a move, I am struggling to pull the car up.
“It is better than the start of the year but I’m still not quite there to what I was with the Red Bull.
“The thing is, if I don’t try, then I’m sitting behind the whole race so I have to try but when I do try for sure it’s sometimes a bit on the limit.
“I’m obviously trying to keep it on track and not be dirty. I’ll try to remember the Grosjean thing, but if I did (impede him), then sorry.
“But I’d rather try than sit behind and be a loser the whole race.”
Ricciardo was also accused by Romain Grosjean of unfairly impeding him earlier in the race, claiming the Aussie “rejoined the track very dangerously” but the stewards dismissed the complaints.
Asked about Grosjean’s complaint, Ricciardo was miffed. “Grosjean?” he said with a look of pure confusion on his face. “What the f*** was I doing?
“I didn’t even know I was racing Grosjean.
“All right, cool, no worries. Excusez-moi.”
‘Not even shown on TV’
In what has been widely viewed as an underwhelming season, the French Grand Prix was no different, with Ricciardo the only driver providing any sort of overtaking of note throughout.
But with the midfield battle coming to a climax on the final lap, the television coverage opted not to show it live, switching instead to follow Hamilton crossing the line, much to Ricciardo’s disbelief.
“I hear they didn’t even show it live on TV,” Ricciardo bemoaned after the race.
“So bit a joke – it was the only battle on track.”
What the stewards said
After reviewing the footage on the last lap of the race, the stewards decided to view it as two separate incidents and considered them separately.
In the first, Ricciardo was judged to have “left the circuit and rejoined unsafely forcing another driver off track.”
The stewards said: “Ricciardo started to pass Norris on the outside at Turn 8. At the exit of the corner he distinctly left the track and the Stewards determined that he rejoined at an angle that forced Norris off the track to avoid the collision.
“The Stewards accepted Ricciardo’s explanation that when he was rejoining the track, he had slowed considerably, going down extra gears and locking up the front left tyre. He also stated that the rumble strips in the turn made the car more difficult to control.
“However, the Stewards considered that the sequence of events constituted rejoining the track unsafely, and he subsequently took the position from Norris.”
In the second incident, Ricciardo was deemed to have “left the track and gained a lasting advantage passing another car”.
Of that, the stewards said: “Following the incident at turn 8 with Norris, Raikkonen managed to pass both Norris and Ricciardo. Ricciardo, who by then had regained control of his car then chased Raikkonen from turn 9 and subsequently passed Raikkonen. Raikkonen defended his position on the straight moving slightly to the right.
“However, Raikkonen never put any part of his car off the track and he did not make any move to the right while any part of Ricciardo’s car was alongside, and did not crowd Ricciardo off the track. To make the pass Ricciardo drove off track and then subsequently completed the pass, gaining a lasting advantage.
“The Stewards reviewed the case to see if it was a continuation of the previous incident. However, Ricciardo clearly had regained control of the car following his incident with Norris and the pass off-track was a separate incident.”
Max Verstappen has branded Lewis Hamilton’s claims that Formula One is not very hard anymore as “bulls***”.
The five-time world champion, who heads into the French Grand Prix with five wins from seven this season, has shone light on the physical demands of F1 recently, after saying rookies should not be able to come in and complete a race with so much ease.
Hamilton has also suggested he would be able to do three races back-to-back because of the current generation of cars.
“What Grosjean said, I don’t understand at all,” he added. “With karting you use very different muscle groups.
“If I would go karting now, after 20 or 30 laps I would also be completely messed up. While when I was 15, I could drive 300 laps in one day and had no problems at all.
“Does that mean that I am not as strong as when I was 15? No, not at all. You just use very different muscles. You ask a lot more from your forearms.
“It makes no sense at all to make that comparison. Look, if you would put mates of mine who are still karting in a racing car, they wouldn’t feel their necks the next day, while they drive 300,000 laps a year in a kart. So I think this is a very strange comparison.”