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F1 2023, Hungarian Grand Prix, qualifying, Daniel Ricciardo, result, Yuki Tsunoda, grid position, AlphaTauri

Daniel Ricciardo will start the Hungarian Grand Prix from 13th after outqualifying new teammate Yuki Tsunoda on his first attempt.

Ricciardo pipped Tsunoda by just 0.013 seconds in Q1, when the field was required to use the

hard-compound tyre per tweaked regulations being trialled this weekend.

The tiny difference was enough to see Ricciardo through to Q2, where with the grippier medium tyre he put himself ahead of the faster cars of Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and Pierre Gasly’s Alpine to head the seventh row of the grid.

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It’s AlphaTauri’s best qualifying result since Yuki Tsunoda’s ninth place at the Monaco Grand Prix and bested all bar one of predecessor Nyck de Vries’s qualifying results.

The Aussie returnee has been careful to keep expectations low for his comeback weekend, but he took satisfaction from measuring up to Tsunoda at the first time of asking.

“I had no idea where to expect to be on the grid, so the 13th place in a way feels somewhat

irrelevant,” he said. “My reference is Yuki for now, and I think he’s also — watching from the outside — a good reference, not only this year but I think already the second half of last year I could see with Pierre he was starting to be a lot more competitive.

“Whether I’m ahead or behind, I think just to be there is positive for me.”

Ricciardo was pleased by his rate of progress after effectively two practice sessions and qualifying, saying he was able to rapidly make himself at home in his new cockpit.

“I’ve felt pretty comfortable,” he said.

“Already [on Friday] we only really got one session, I was a bit off the pace, but I kind of knew where I was missing, and it was quite self-explanatory where I could find the pace. So I felt quite confident in the car.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 22: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Scuderia AlphaTauri. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – JULY 22: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Scuderia AlphaTauri. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“I improved those today. I think everything I had to improve last night I was able to improve — I got it close to 100 per cent, or maybe 98, so I took a nice step.”

That step put Ricciardo just three places out of the points, and with the top 10 comprising both Alfa Romeo drivers and Nico Hülkenberg’s Haas, all of which have tended to have poorer race pace, the prospect of a fruitful first race can’t be discounted.

But scoring points isn’t Ricciardo’s aim, with the Perth native realistic about how much learning he still has to do in his new car over a race distance at one of the sport’s most physically demanding circuits.

“I’ll get a little more jacked up tomorrow, but I think as well I’ll just be smart,” he said. “Of course I need to get into it and race and not be soft, but I think as well I need ideally to log laps and get info for the team.

“I’ve done probably only an eight-lap run or something at the moment. I think tomorrow there’s going to be a lot of things for me to learn in terms of tyre management but also the car — with fuel, as the tyres go off, I think I’ll start to probably discover a bit more about the car and obviously then in those conditions the weaknesses.

“I think there’ll probably be laps where I’m maybe not doing too great but then there’ll be laps where I’ll be doing better because I’m learning as I go. I don’t want to say that negatively, but inevitably there’s going to be still a handful of things to pick up on. Hopefully I can be a fast learner.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – JULY 22: Daniel Ricciardo. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“If we can find our way into the points, that would be huge. Obviously as a team we need to get points, but it’s really just making sure that I’m on top of the car, at one with the car, and then that’s the first box I need to tick.”

But just as a specific qualifying result wasn’t on Ricciardo’s mind, there’s no particular race

outcome that will satisfy the eight-time race winner.

“I was trying not to get caught up on how I go this weekend,” he said. “Truthfully I was really trying to remove as much of that as I could and make sure that this is the place that makes me feel like myself again.

“Jumping in the car in qualifying, I felt actually really relaxed — not taking it lightly, but just happy to be back and happy to be able to push the car on the limit again.

“This is something I obviously didn’t always have the last year or two. That’s why I think the time off was needed for me.

If we even forget the result today, just the way I feel, I just feel a bit lighter and a bit more bubbly — kind of like myself.

“I was driving a bit more with a smile. It was very, very good for me. Maybe not everyone needs [a break], but for me I felt like it was really good at that time of my career.”

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