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Mexico City — “He’s going to be punished!” Moving under braking. so much!”
Daniel Ricciardo laughed off George Russell’s media baton as he joked about his defensive mannerisms.
They battled hard in the closing stages of the Mexico City Grand Prix, even side by side in the final lap. Russell Alfatauri, defending for a long time, crossed the line half a second ahead to squeeze P6 and leave Ricciardo in seventh place.
“It was everyone!” Russell returned the favor and said, “You’re welcome, mate.”
Ricciardo had a smile on his face after scoring his comeback F1 result to date, as the pair beat each other in a fist-fight. Seventh place was Alfatauri’s best finish of the year and lifted the team from last to eighth in the Constructors’ Championship.
And yet Ricciardo left in a frustrated mood. He finished fourth on Saturday and held on for fifth place in the “lone” race before the red-flag following cars closed in on him again. After the restart, Ricciardo lost to Russell and was unable to keep Lando Norris from taking the lead. He answered Russell late, but fell short.
“When you’re that close, it’s like, Ah, we could do it!” Ricardo said. “We tried. In the end, to fight with Mercedes at the end, that makes me happier than losing sixth.”
Russell thought one more lap would be enough for Ricciardo. “He had a great weekend,” Russell said. I am very happy to see him doing well. worth it.”
When Ricciardo returned mid-season in Hungary, AlphaTauri had the slowest car on the grid. Although it has advanced with improvements and is now more competitive, it has significantly improved its ceiling in Mexico by holding off a potential Mercedes win in Austin last week. Ricciardo wasn’t just talking about the confidence he carried into the weekend; Presented at each session.
The timing couldn’t be more fitting. As Sergio Perez saw his big weekend end with a big retirement, one of his biggest rivals for the Red Bull seat made it clear that he is a real contender.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner said: “He looks like the old Daniel this weekend.
Perez went out to fight
Perez knew it would be a crucial contest to turn around Mexico’s recent slump, especially with the home crowd on his side. After making discoveries in his approach with the RB19 car, he felt Austin’s sprint weekend prevented him from showing his potential. Fifth in qualifying didn’t seem like much – and he was notably behind Ricciardo at Alfatauri – but it gave him the chance to fight for a long stretch to turn 1.
Perez did exactly that. He made one of the best escapes from the line, reacting quicker than Verstappen to pick up the slip of Charles Leclerc in front. The three went to turn 1 three-wide; Perez went into the lead and paid the price, his car going airborne and coming down with enough damage to end the race. A moment silenced the giants.
Perez collides with Leclerc at the start and exits the home race 💥😖 #F1 #MexicoGP pic.twitter.com/UmWI6W03c9
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 29, 2023
“I saw the gap and I went there,” Perez said. “I decided to take a risk, I knew it would be very dangerous, and I paid the price.” Asked if he would do it again, The Athletic’s Madeline Coleman said: “Yes, I would.”
It was a spark of wrestling that was missing at points this year. Without the incident, Horner believed Perez would have been on the podium, but the team boss didn’t feel any disappointment or frustration as he went about his act. “You’re leading at your home race – if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be a racing driver,” Horner told Perez.
Still, it turned out to be another failure in a year that started with so much promise. After running with Verstappen in the first four races, Perez saw his team-mate pull ahead and other drivers come up behind him. Lewis Hamilton’s exit from the race in Austin gave Perez a huge advantage as he battled for second in the championship, but that gap is now down to 20 points with three races remaining. A one-two in the drivers’ standings will be a first for Red Bull.
“We’ll give him all the support we can,” Horner said, praising Perez’s mental strength and calling him “a tough operator.” For 2024, he reiterated, “If you don’t finish second, you’re out of the team.” Perez is under contract, and Horner said it was “our intention” to race for Red Bull. next year.
“I took a risk for which I paid a high price.”
Sergio Perez gives his take on that Round 1 clash 💥 #F1 #MexicoGP pic.twitter.com/2NWC4qwBDn
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 29, 2023
Ricciardo shows his hunger
Ricciardo’s name will be in the mix as Red Bull consider the next step in their seat alongside Verstappen. The Australian, who has scored seven of his eight race wins, has been open about his return to the team. He chose to return that final game with Alfatauri in sight.
Red Bull praised Ricciardo’s contribution and progress in the simulator during his time away from racing. His performance at the Silverstone Pirelli tire test convinced Red Bull to drop Nick de Vries on the same day. But nothing compares to racing and competing in F1.
So far, Ricciardo hasn’t had a strong statement to back that up. He felt his confidence building at the start of the weekend in Zandvoort, only for an injury and injury to set things back. Lim Lawson’s impressive performances during the stand-off have prompted Alfatauri to question his decision to stay with Ricciardo for next year based on two races. He admitted he felt some rust in Austin as he struggled to dial in the car’s set-up during one practice session.
Things have changed in Mexico. Alfatauri’s move to improve his car saw Ricciardo pull away as per the regular weekend format. But mentally, Ricciardo seems to be in a different, stronger head position.
“It’s funny after last week,” Ricciardo said. “You can’t guarantee a good weekend. I’m not surprised we had a great weekend. I was ready for it. “
Horner highlighted the mental challenge Ricciardo faced during his difficult spell with McLaren, calling it “false” to think his driving style had major weaknesses.
“It’s like sports in his head, and I think he’s back to his old self,” Horner said. “You can see he’s relaxed, confident. He came into the weekend fully motivated after a tough Austin. I thought he did a great job coming back from injury.
Ricciardo should build on this in the last three races. One strong weekend isn’t enough to ensure that Ricciardo is back at the peak of his powers – of all Ricciardo. “Sure, I can improve some things,” he said. But overall I was very happy with the weekend.
Perez’s ambition, while admirable, came at a price. And Ricciardo did his best to maximize the result and provide a big lift for Alfatauri.
“Big picture, we have to be very happy,” Ricciardo said of the team’s season. It could easily stretch the narrative of the fight for the Red Bull’s seat in 2025 – and the best argument for it yet.
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(Lead photo by Daniel Ricciardo: Kim Ellman/Getty Images)