Daniel Ricciardo called his fourth place finish at the Japanese Grand Prix “a little victory” for himself and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, as the Austrian team outscored Scuderia Ferrari.
Ricciardo started fifteenth after a loss of power ended his qualifying before he could set a time in Qualifying 2, but managed to take advantage of Sebastian Vettel‘s demise and leap ahead of Kimi Räikkönen in the pitstops – finishing 20 seconds behind race winner Lewis Hamilton.
The Australian noted his surprise in his ability to move through the field due to the nature of the Suzuka International Racing Course, but said that Red Bull had good performance on the soft compound tyres with their high-downforce setup, allowing both he and team-mate Max Verstappen to keep in the slipstream of other cars.
“Surprisingly, I was able to come through the field and overtake quite easily,” said Ricciardo.
“That’s not because I thought I couldn’t personally overtake, it’s just not that easy on this track, but I was able to make good use of the downforce we had on the soft tyre.
“I knew we would be quite vulnerable on the straights as we ran very high downforce this weekend, but I could stay close enough in the corners that I could latch onto the tow of the cars ahead on the straights.
“It was a good set-up and the first part of the race was a lot of fun.”
Pitting on lap 23 for the medium tyres, Ricciardo managed to get ahead of Räikkönen and into fourth. The Finn had expressed his worry about strategy to Ferrari over the radio a few laps prior to his stop on lap 17, believing that starting on the super-softs was a mistake.
Ricciardo continued by saying that Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko had called fourth place “a little optimistic” before the race.
“We went on to the mediums to try and cover Kimi and fourth place was kind of written after that,” Ricciardo explained.
“I would have loved a podium and I was kind of hoping for something to happen up front, but I feel I earned at least a fourth today. It was good to come through the field and on the grid Helmut actually said that he thought fourth place was a little optimistic and possibly out of reach today. So, fourth is like a little victory from the back on this track and it was good to see our strong pace against Ferrari.
“A podium would have been even sweeter but I can’t complain with the result and I’m pleased for the team.”
The result keeps Ricciardo in sixth position in the Drivers’ Championship, 27 points behind Verstappen who finished third.