Daniel Ricciardo’s Mid-Pack F1 Hungarian GP Finish Is an Auspicious Start to His Return

He may have finished better without a questionable pit stop decision from AlphaTauri.

Lewis Hamilton stole the show on Saturday, with a blistering qualifying lap that former teammate Nico Rosberg said was perfect. Hamilton secured pole position, for the first time since 2021, just barely besting the dominant Max Verstappen. However, despite Hamilton’s pole position in the F1 Hungarian grand prix, many eyes were on a different man, one that started much further back on the grid—Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo hasn’t been in an F1 car all season, as he left McLaren after last season but didn’t find another team to start the 2023 season. However, he signed on as Red Bull Racing’s reserve driver a few weeks ago. So when AlphaTauri—another Red Bull-owned team—dropped rookie driver Nick De Vries after the British grand prix two weeks ago, Ricciardo was the next man up.

The Hungarian GP was Ricciardo’s first proper F1 action all year and qualified in P13, which wasn’t too surprising given AlphaTauri’s middling performance this season. Despite some questionable tire management by the team, which had Ricciardo pit for a second time with just a handful of laps on his tires, his performance showed signs of promise.

After the odd second pit stop, which dropped Ricciardo back to last place from eighth, he was able to fight back and secure a P13 finish. While that’s a mid-pack finish, and no better than his qualifying performance, it’s about as good as we’ve seen from AlphaTauri all season. It was also a better finish than his teammate, Yuki Tsunoda’s, who finished P15.

This wasn’t Ricciardo’s best performance but it was an impressive one, given the circumstances. It was Ricciardo’s first race since last year, so he needed to shake off some rust, and he’s only had less than two weeks to get used to the car, the team, and their strategies. With a solid qualifying and some impressive, veteran driving at the Hungarian GP, the expectation is that Ricciardo will continue to improve as he gets used to the car and help put some much needed points on the board for AlphaTauri.

In other F1 Hungarian GP news, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won yet again. While that isn’t entirely surprising, it is the twelfth win in a row for Red Bull, which break’s McLaren’s 35-year-old record of 11 straight wins from 1988. Verstappen was absolutely dominant and at one point gained himself a 35 second lead over McLaren’s second place Lando Norris. Speaking of Norris, his second place finish earned him his first ever back-to-back podium finishes, so things are looking up for the young driver and the McLaren team as a whole. Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez finished third, despite starting ninth, and earned himself the Driver of the Day award.

Next week, July 30, will be the Belgium grand prix, where Ricciardo will look to improve from his 2023 debut and both Red Bull and Verstappen will try to keep breaking records.

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