The tough streets of Baku bit twice for McLaren in Saturday’s interrupted qualifying session ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Daniel Ricciardo slid into the barriers in the second of the three qualifying segments. As a result, the Aussie will start the race – which he won in 2017 – from 13th on the grid.
Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris set the sixth fastest time. But the stewards gave him a three-place grid penalty because he failed to enter pitlane moments after the red flags halted Q1 after Lance Stroll ploughed into the barriers at Turn 15. So Norris is now ninth on the grid.
The silver lining in Ricciardo’s cloud is that all the hard work he and the team put in between the Monaco and Azerbaijan weekends has given him a solid step forward in melding his driving style with that required by the McLaren.
“Obviously it is frustrating not getting a great result in qualifying,” Ricciardo said. “I think that there have still been some good things that have come from the weekend so far. It is not over. I have a lot of laps to do Sunday to try to get a bit more from the weekend.
“Unfortunately on paper it does not look great, but it has actually been a step in the right direction this weekend. For sure still, a bit to go, the mistake is a highlight of that. But otherwise we will keep chipping away. The morale in the team is good, so we just have to stay on course.”
Ricciardo is looking forward to the upcoming races in France and Austria where the traditional race tracks allow some room for error.
Norris, meanwhile, was disconsolate because he believes his punishment did not fit the crime. In addition to the three-place grid penalty, the stewards also gave him three penalty points, raising his total to eight. If an F1 driver gets 12 points in a 12 month period he gets a one race ban.
Lance Stroll hit the barriers at Turn 15 in Q1, and that after a few moments triggered a session-stopping red flag. At the same moment, Norris was approaching the entry to pit lane at high speed. Should he risk pitting or do a slowdown lap? He stayed out for another lap.
“It’s a tough one because going at the speeds we do you have to make such a quick decision on what is the best and safest thing to do,” the British driver said.
“I feel like what I did was exactly the safest thing to do. For all I know the pitlane could’ve been blocked, and then you’re not allowed to enter the pitlane and it could have been a different story. I did everything I thought I should’ve done.
“It sucks because in the end there is a rule, but sometimes there is more leniency to certain situations when a driver has still done the best thing that is possible to do in that situation. Yes I am a bit gutted because it is three places back and it is going to make our life a lot more difficult. I do not feel like it is a fair decision, but it is what it is.”
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