Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified for the second time in his Formula 1 career. (REUTERS: Soe Zeya Tun)
Daniel Ricciardo just can’t seem to catch a break.
- Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified after stewards ruled his team used a driver aid during the race
- Ricciardo started in 16th place in Japan before battling to sixth
- Ricciardo has finished outside the points in 12 of 17 races this season with Renault
The Australian driver has been disqualified from the Japanese Grand Prix after battling through the field to secure his joint-second highest finishing position of the season.
Nico Hulkenberg, who finished in ninth spot, was also disqualified, robbing Renault of just its fourth double-points finish this season.
The ruling will be particularly jarring for Ricciardo, who finished in sixth place in Japan after a torrid qualifying session hampered by a “frustrating” suspension problems saw him qualify in 16th.
Ricciardo proceeded to scythe through the field at the challenging Suzuka circuit, making a series of typically daring overtakes on the road to move up as high as fifth, before eventually crossing the line in a hugely credible seventh — a result later upgraded to sixth after a post-race penalty for Charles Leclerc.
“I’m really happy,” Ricciardo said after the race.
“I knew we’d have a bit more pace in the race but to come up to seventh, we didn’t really expect to get that far up.
“The team deserved this result today … it was nice to execute a good strategy, we pulled through and, in the end, it was a deserved and quite comfortable seventh place.”
However — in an outcome that appears typical of the one-step-forward, two-steps-back 2019 Renault season — the impressive result has now been annulled thanks to the disqualification.
Daniel Ricciardo has suffered four retirements this season, and now one disqualification. (AP: Vincent Thian)
It was Ricciardo’s first disqualification since the 2014 Australian Grand Prix, where he was penalised for a high fuel-flow issue.
The disqualification centred around an appeal lodged by rival team Racing Point, citing evidence of a technical breach related to a “pre-set, automated brake bias system.”
Racing Point said that on-board camera footage showed that the brake balance display on each driver’s steering wheel changed without the driver making any visible adjustments, suggesting that it had been pre-programmed.
After impounding both Renault steering wheels, stewards later ruled that although Renault used “innovative solutions to exploit certain ambiguities”, they had not broken any technical rules but had broken sporting regulations for using a driver aid.
Renault has until Friday (Australian time) to appeal, ahead of this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.
Daniel Ricciardo has been hiding from the spotlight in the mid-field for most of this season. (AP: Luca Bruno)
The disqualification is the latest issue to plague the French team this season, in which they have performed significantly below expectations, starting with the very first testing session in February.
Renault is currently in fifth spot in the constructor championship, 34 points behind McLaren F1 which, significantly, uses a Renault-supplied engine.
Ricciardo has now failed to record points in 12 of the 17 races since his highly publicised move from Red Bull.
The seven-time Grand Prix winner told the F1 website has not had his debut season at Renault go to plan, but insists that he has no regrets.
“I still don’t regret anything 12 months down the track,” Ricciardo said.
“I had … I don’t want to say expectations, but scenarios in my head at the start of the year of how things would go.
“Now I can assess where I am and try to understand what I can do better within myself — and with the team — to keep everything going.”
There are four races remaining in the 2019 F1 season. After the conclusion of this season, Ricciardo has one year left on his contract with Renault.