Sport Motorsport Ricciardo needs to get his motors running
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Ricciardo needs to get his motors running

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Daniel Ricciardo is cautiously optimistic of a better result in this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix after a scrappy race in Shanghai last Sunday.

Ricciardo drove an uncharacteristically messy grand prix in China to drop from seventh after qualifying to ninth at the flag, bringing home a paltry two points.

His race was ruined by a poor start that dropped him down to seventeenth after one lap. The team judged it to be the result of a driver error that triggered the car’s anti-stall system.

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A recalcitrant Daniil Kvyat then temporarily halted his teammate’s recovery drive early by refusing to let the Australian past despite team instruction, before a drawn-out battle with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson put paid to any significant haul of points.

“It’s frustrating,” lamented Ricciardo. “We struggled to get by.

“We underachieved, but hopefully we find something in the next few days and have a better result in Bahrain.”

Red Bull and Renault struggling for synergy

The opening stanza to the season has been underwhelming for Ricciardo and his Red Bull Racing team largely because of the former powerhouse squad’s struggle to get the best out of the troubled 2015 Renault power unit.

Ricciardo was one of only two Renault-powered finishers last weekend, though even his car needed a precautionary engine change between qualifying and the race.

Besieged Renault F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul called for calm amidst strained Red Bull-Renault relations.

“We knew that the first engine we built had some reliability weaknesses,” he said this week. “We knew we had this reliability risk above our heads.

“We know that Sakhir will be another test for us, but we will react to counter the issues just as we did with the driveability situation encountered in Melbourne.”

But with only four days between the end of the Chinese Grand Prix and the beginning of practice in Bahrain, Abiteboul admitted little improvement is likely in the immediate future.

“I’m not quite sure from a logistical perspective that it could be addressed for Bahrain, but certainly our aim has been to have absolutely no reliability issues by Monaco.”

Engine crisis looming

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing sits in his car in the garage
Ricciardo’s engines are a concern. Photo: Getty

With the Monaco Grand Prix over a month away, time is against Ricciardo, who has already used three of the four engines allocated to him this season.

Each additional power unit component above the allocation carries significant qualifying penalties.

“I think we are going to get copped at least with one,” said Ricciardo, perhaps optimistically. “Eventually we are going to have to serve penalties, but hopefully the reliability improves.”

The team’s more immediate reliability concern is for its brakes, with the Bahrain International Circuit one of the sternest tests of stopping power on the calendar.

Both Ricciardo and teammate Kvyat came close to suffering brake failures from extreme wear in Malaysia, which prompted a switch from Hitco to Brembo-supplied brakes for China.

Though the new brakes gave both drivers a more consistent feel in Shanghai, an overheating caliper caused Kvyat’s rear brakes to seize and pitch him into the barriers.

The heat of the Bahraini desert track will only exacerbate any lingering brake cooling problems on the Red Bull car.

Despite the odds of a breakthrough result this weekend stacked against him, the perpetually smiling Ricciardo is still finding reasons for optimism as the opening leg of the season draws to a close.

“At least some positives are that we learnt a few areas where we need to improve, and the smart guys in the team can find a solution.

“Seeing that Ferrari’s done it only means it’s within reason that we will able to do it as well. The team has got the ability to make a big step like that.”

-ABC

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