No Australian has ever won a championship round of the Australian Grand Prix, and Daniel Ricciardo’s crash late in qualifying looks likely to prolong the country’s dry spell for another year.
The Australian lost control of his RB13 at turn 14 when the back of the car stepped out, sending Ricciardo into a spin and a back-first crash into the barriers.
Though Ricciardo immediately accepted the blame for the crash, he was surprised his car broke away from his control so quickly.
“It was a little bit weird,” he mused. “I felt, when I turned in, the rear was a little bit light, but it snapped a bit later.
“I didn’t get the impression it was going to go, and then it was like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s going’. I tried to catch it, but it was too late.”
“I had a quick look now at the replay and at the data — I was pushing, but I didn’t enter the corner any quicker than what I did in my Q2 lap. I wasn’t overdriving to an extent where I felt like I influenced it more than I should have.”
Ricciardo’s crash wasn’t the first of its kind this weekend, with similar losses in traction experienced by Jolyon Palmer during free practice two and Lance Stroll in free practice three.
Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit isn’t flush with the sort of high-speed corners that typically elicit this sort of car behaviour, and Ricciardo thinks the new-for-2017 cars could be behind the crashes.
“Because we’ve got quite a bit more downforce on the cars, because they’re more loaded, when they do go, they seem a bit harder to bring back,” he said.
“It was just a tough one. We’re still trying to get on top of the cars and all that, and there’s still a bit of learning to do.”
Ricciardo’s crash meant he was classified as tenth and without a time in Q3 during qualifying, but of small consolation for the 27 year old is that his car wasn’t in contention for pole in any case.
Red Bull Racing teammate Max Verstappen completed the session, and though the Dutchman qualified fifth, his best time was a whopping 1.3 seconds slower than Lewis Hamilton’s pole lap.
“I think Max’s lap was pretty tidy,” Ricciardo said. “I briefly heard his comments and I don’t think he could’ve got much more out of that in Q3.
“Coming in here we thought if we’re within half a second, that’s okay for where we are at the moment and we can build from that — but we’re obviously more than a second off.
“I feel there is more in this car, but we’re not quite sure perhaps how to get there or the right path for that at the moment.
“We just need more trial and error, more track time, so the race will hopefully give us a few answers no matter where we end up.”
But the race might bring little joy for Ricciardo, with the combination of his low starting position and lack of car performance conspiring to keep him languishing somewhere in the middle of the pack.
“In long runs [in practice] we struggled quite a bit as well, so we’ll see.
“Obviously we work on being competitive and stuff, and … even in testing I was hopeful that it would be good, but I’ve learnt to disregard the word ‘expectation’ over the last few years.”
“I didn’t use two sets of ultrasoft in Q2, which means I have got a new ultrasoft for the race, so if I did do a two-stop, that would work in my favour.
“A safety car would make that a bit more nice, so maybe a safety car with about 15 laps to go would be the dream scenario — I’d put ultrasofts on, and by that stage we might be up to eighth, and I come from eighth through to third. Then the first two guys get disqualified!”