Ricciardo could feel new F1 chassis difference in China

The Australian had come into the Chinese Grand Prix off the back of a difficult start to the season, where he had been struggling for pace against team-mate Yuki Tsunoda and facing questions over his future.

With no obvious explanation for his difficulties, the team believed a well-timed change of chassis for this weekend would at least be able to tick that issue off as a factor in his form.

And having delivered perhaps his strongest weekend of the year against Tsunoda, who has been struggling to find a good set-up, Ricciardo says he has noticed things feeling different this weekend.

However, he believed it was far too early to make a judgement immediately on whether the chassis change was behind the gains or if it was something else.

“It feels like a more normal weekend,” said Ricciardo, who has qualified 12th for Sunday’s Chinese GP.

“I would say from the get-go, from yesterday morning, we kind of just felt like we’re in a better place and everything came — I don’t want to say easier, because that sounds too easy — but yeah, it just kind of came a bit more seamlessly so far this weekend. It’s encouraging, obviously.

“We did change chassis, [but] I don’t want to jump on that yet and be like, it’s definitely that. Obviously, we need to prove that over the course of a few races. But yeah, there was obviously something with the change this weekend.

“So far, it’s been my best weekend of the year. So, whether it’s that or whether it’s just I’ve always kind of done well around here, we’ll see. We’ll see in Miami, and Imola and maybe the next few [races] if it continues.”

With the team having been convinced that there was nothing wrong with the chassis that Ricciardo started the season with, the Australian says that if things stay at this level for the next few events he may have to accept that he will never know what the problem was.

“If the next five completely do this kind of 180, so to speak, then I would have confidence in saying alright, well, maybe we will never know what it was.

“Something didn’t make me feel right with obviously the previous chassis I was racing.

“I would love to be here in five races’ time and say that, because then it means the season has definitely turned around and I’ve kind of got that monkey off our back.

“We’ll see. But I’m encouraged so far with the two days we’ve had here.”

Shanghai is not a normal track, with its long slow corners making it particularly challenging on the front tyres.

But Ricciardo said that despite the unique aspects, there had been no need for a dramatic change of approach in how he was dealing with his car.

“This circuit is typically a bit more of a front-limited circuit, so it is a little different to probably the majority of tracks in terms of the set-up and that.

“But I’d be lying if I said we changed much this weekend. It was a little few tweaks here and there, but it’s nothing crazy. So yeah, let’s see.

“So far, it feels everything’s gone more normal. And right now normal is good.”

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