Daniel Ricciardo cut a surprisingly upbeat figure in the British Grand Prix paddock on Saturday night despite a suspected turbocharger problem knocking him out in last place during qualifying.
Ricciardo had just set the fastest time of the session when his car shut itself down seven minutes into Q1, forcing him to pull over onto the grass and retire.
“I have no idea how an engine works, but I know what a turbo sounds like, I think,” Ricciardo joked. “It started making some really strange noises and I was losing power with that.
“I think from an engine safety mode point of view everything switches off just to try to not damage anything else.”
The Australian was already carrying a five-place grid penalty for making an unscheduled gearbox change, but any damage to the power unit could have him serve additional penalties, albeit ineffectual.
Ricciardo’s car has already used all four of its MGU-H allocation and was using the third of its four turbochargers. Using the fifth of any component would incur a 10-place penalty.
It’s the latest incident in a concerning run of form for Red Bull Racing. Max Verstappen has suffered four terminal technical problems in the last seven races, including what would have been a clutch failure at the Austrian Grand Prix had he not been involved in the first-lap crash, and Ricciardo retired from the Australian and Russian grands prix with car problems.
Ricciardo seemed unfazed, however.
“For sure without the problem today I would’ve already been the champion this year, so for sure it’s frustrating — but whatever,” he said.
So apparently untroubled was he by the problems that he brainstormed a cunning plan to scythe his way to the front.
“Me and Fernando [Alonso, also starting from the back of the grid] are certainly going to have a few beers tonight, meet up and figure out a way,” he said. “I think we take one person out at a time and draft our way up to the front.
“I haven’t spoken to his about this yet, but I’m sure he’s thinking the same as me.
“Gamble at the start? Yes: use the others as my brake.
“No, I should be more respectful — I’ll use a few.
“That’s where Fernando comes into play. I might have to disconnect his brakes into turn three — take out ten for me, and then from tenth I should be able to do the rest.”
However, acknowledging that in Azerbaijan he raced from P17 to victory after suffering from early race damage, Ricciardo said a chaotic British Grand Prix could see him score heavy points.
“Obviously Baku was pretty crazy circumstances,” he said. “We’ll need a bit of that tomorrow, whether it’s weather, a few safety cars or something.
“The one plus side as well of starting so far out of sequence is I can try to start the race on a different tyre and take a gamble that might work out in the end, or you could get a late safety car and I might have a new set of use in the end.
A comeback would almost certainly require wet weather, he said, because the Red Bull Racing RB13 proved less competitive in the dry than expected around the Silverstone Circuit.
“I thought we would’ve been a bit quicker this weekend,” he admitted. “In the dry myself and Max would’ve been on the third row.
“In inters conditions — in the end obviously Q3 wasn’t inters — we’re pretty strong. Towards the end of the session I saw Max was on top for a bit.
“Part of me is kind of glad it wasn’t like that in Q3, otherwise I would’ve felt a real missed opportunity, because we can be strong on inters.”
But Daniel Ricciardo became distracted by the starting Formula Two race before his debrief finished, noting Prema driver Charles Leclerc’s dominant form and openly wondering whether the Monegasque was destined for a Ferrari drive.
“He’s too young,” came the reply, before Ricciardo was asked the obvious next question.
“Am I taking Kimi’s seat?” the Australian replied. “I am not.
“Will Kimi keep the seat? I’m not convinced. Today he did well.
“I don’t know, I sense some musical chairs; something in the air — I just farted.
“I’m just talking shit, sorry.”