Daniel Ricciardo opened his points account in Formula One with an impressive performance in front of his home crowd at Albert Park. The Toro Rosso driver took advantage of a chaotic final lap to finish ninth, a tenth of a second behind Sergio Perez.
The Australian was involved in contact at the first corner with Bruno Senna which forced him to change his front wing but a late safety car period brought him back into contention before all hell broke loose on the last lap.
“I don't really know how that happened on the last lap”, he commented. “I saw blue flags and a lot of cars in front and I was sure I could make up at least one place because it was chaos. I was a bit lucky to be the last one in that group because I could have a clear picture of the other cars going off in front. Then I had a chance to attack Jean-Eric. He defended into Turn 13 and I thought I could make the switch back and I did, which put me in P9. The last few laps were crazy and I was pushing like hell.”
“At the start, I got caught up in the accident and at the moment I don't understand how it happened or who was to blame. I made a decent start, I moved to the outside but there were too many of us there. I hit the left front quite hard against a Williams and had to come in to change the nose. I had to race with a bit of damage after that. It's good to finish ninth, but I think I could have done better because the car was very strong, given how fast it was even with the damage I had to carry through the whole race, with the car pulling to one side. It was not easy to come back, but I never gave up, pushing all the time. I'm extremely happy and it's great to score my first F1 points here at home in Australia, where the crowd has been just fantastic all weekend long.”
Teammate Jean-Eric Vergne missed out on a maiden points finish by just 0.111s and was left to rue a mistake when trying to overtake Paul Di Resta which dropped him down the order. The Frenchman was encouraged by the pace he had during the race though and will head to Malaysia in high spirits.
“I got a super start and I had moved up a few places, but then Webber touched my right rear and I went straight on, losing a lot of time. After that, it was complicated as I was stuck behind cars I could not pass, even if they were considerable slower than me. Then, when trying to pass Di Resta, I made a small mistake, braking a tiny bit too late and went into the gravel. Even on dirty tyres, I was doing some very quick times. It's just a shame that at the end I tried too hard and lost too much ground. That's racing, I learned a lot on my first Formula 1 weekend and there are still nineteen races in which I can score points. The car seems to be working well and we were competitive all weekend, so I'm looking forward to getting back on track in Malaysia in a few days.”
Team Principal Franz Tost was delighted with the performances from his young drivers, especially given their various dramas during the race.
“Having started from 10th and 11th on the grid, it might seem quite normal to finish 9th and 11th but this was far from a normal race and it was an exciting spectacle with which to start the season. Unfortunately, on the opening lap, Daniel was the innocent victim of a collision which meant he had to pit immediately for a new nose which dropped him to the back of the pack. After that he had to contend with a car that was never quite right, having sustained some damage in that collision.”
“Jean-Eric also got delayed by the confusion on the opening lap, dropping to sixteenth place. He then fought his way back to the top ten, but he lost places after running wide shortly after half distance. The Safety Car worked quite well for us and both drivers managed to get past Di Resta. Then, in the final part of the third sector on the last lap, Jean-Eric tried just a little bit too hard and this cost him tenth place. Given what happened to him on the opening lap, ninth place for Daniel at his home race is the best we could hope for. Both drivers did a good job all weekend, gaining in experience from day to day. The car performance was very good over the three days and I think we can look forward to another strong race in Malaysia in seven days time and indeed to a good season.”