Fuming Ricciardo resigned to tough slog in Japanese GP

Red Bull Racing’s Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo. (AFP pic)

SUZUKA: Daniel Ricciardo was left fuming and frustrated on Saturday after a problem with his power unit put him out of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Australian will line up 15th on the grid in his Red Bull for Sunday’s race, after being unable to set a time and failing to progress beyond the second part of qualifying.

“As soon as I went on throttle I knew that something was up,” Ricciardo, who suffered what he believed was a broken throttle actuator on his lap out of the pits, later told reporters.

“It’s a piece about 8 millimetres thick, I think. I haven’t seen it but I guess it just snapped off or something. It sounded ugly,” he said.

Ricciardo won the Monaco Grand Prix in May but hasn’t finished on the podium since.

He has retired from three of the past six races and has also had to take engine-related grid penalties in two of the past three races.

He was livid as he stepped out of his car on Saturday.

Nicknamed the ‘honey badger’ after the cuddly but ferocious animal, television cameras caught him swearing in frustration, his words audible even though he still had his helmet on.

“I was just sitting with my engineer before and we really struggled to think of a smooth weekend we’ve had from start to finish,” said the 29-year-old, pointing out that even in Monaco he had to nurse his car home to victory with a power unit problem.

Red Bull are powered by Renault power units badged Tag Heuer.

The team, who are switching to Honda power next year, have often been vocal in their criticism of the French manufacturer with Max Verstappen repeatedly venting his frustration over the radio two races ago in Singapore.

But Ricciardo, leaving Red Bull for the works Renault team next year, has been more measured in his criticism.

Nevertheless, Saturday’s setback hurt, especially as Verstappen capitalised on a tyre-gamble-gone-wrong for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to take third.

The Dutchman is aiming for a podium finish. Ricciardo, who also won in China this year, is resigned to a hard afternoon’s slog.

“I’ll have better pace than the cars around me but I’m not going to be driving by them easily,” he said. “Realistically it’s still going to be a long old race.”