Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda ‘aiming to fight in the midfield’ this F1 season

A year ago at Formula 1 pre-season testing Aston Martin delivered the biggest surprise. The AMR23 took the grid by storm, helping Fernando Alonso notch a podium finish in each of the first three races of the season as Aston Martin began the year on the front foot.

Could Visa Cash App RB F1 Team (VCARB) have this year’s surprise package with their RB01?

Both Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda expressed some optimism as the three days of pre-season testing came to a close, and with good reason. Ricciardo enjoyed some time at the top of the timing sheets over the first two days, and it was Tsunoda who made a big leap forward on Friday, finishing in P5. While the standard caveats about testing apply, both drivers believe the team has made a big step forward from last year.

“Testing went fairly smooth. We didn’t exactly follow our run [program] as there were some issues with the track, but we responded well to them,” said Tsunoda in the team’s post-testing media report. “I felt the car has made a good step forward compared to last year, so I’m happy with it so far. The balance has improved, and especially the front felt strong.

“We still have to find more with the rear, but it’s moving in the right direction. I completed many laps over the last couple of days and it was a good experience that allowed us to collect good data and help find the limit of the car. Looking at the timesheet, we’re not last, but it’s difficult to know where we are compared to the rest of the field, so I’m excited to start racing again next week.”

For Ricciardo, whose shocking return to the grid last season is expected to be a big focus of this season’s Drive to Survive which debuts on Friday, he certainly believes this year’s challenger is a big step from last season’s.

“I think testing has been good and we’ve definitely developed the car from last year. I completed plenty of laps and feel pretty fit. Unfortunately, there were some issues on track with the drain, and we were worried we wouldn’t get our race run in, but luckily, we did. I did some short runs on Day 1 and 2 and race simulation this morning,” said Ricciardo.

“In terms of performance, I think we’re where we expected to be. We’re aiming to fight in the midfield group and we’ll try to make the most of what we got. Overall, it was a smooth test, so I don’t think we leave here with any concerns,” he added. “We made some gains and know where we are, but if we want to make sure to fight for Q3 and points consistently, there’s certainly a bit more we need to find.”

Alan Permane, who joined VCARB as their new Sporting Director after years of service at Alpine, it has been a positive three days highlighted by the reliability the team has seen from their 2024 challenger.

“It’s definitely been a positive three days for us. The car has run very reliably all week, and we’ve gathered a huge amount of data. We focused our efforts on quality testing, taking time to do setup changes and understanding the car,” said Permane. “We’ve mixed that with some long runs and did a full race distance with Daniel today, which went faultlessly. We’ll now use the upcoming days to analyse the data we’ve collected and learn from it, to take not only into the Bahrain race weekend but of course, the upcoming races.”

The team struggled out of the gate a year ago managing just two points — a two of P10 finishes from Tsunoda — over the first ten races of the year. That is when the team made the decision to sack rookie Nyck de Vries midseason, replacing him with Ricciardo.

Now they will open the year with two veteran drivers, hoping to build off of not just their strong finish to 2023, but three solid days of work in Bahrain.

“It’s been a great moment to see the Visa Cash App RB team officially hitting the track for the first time. We have a fantastic group of people from the factories in Faenza, Bicester and also from our power unit partner Honda, and it has been a privilege to work alongside them for the first time at the racetrack. Of course, we have a long path ahead to build and develop our team to the level of competitiveness we want to target,” said new Team Principal Laurent Mekies. “However, we have started in a positive manner in Bahrain this week and executed a solid [program] which will be key to our in-season development. There’s no doubt that Race 1 will jump at us very quickly now, and we certainly have a lot of work to do to be prepared at the level we want to be at.

“Finally, I would like to thank Daniel, Yuki, and everyone from our factories for the hard work and the fantastic spirit shown so far. We can’t wait to be back next week and start racing!”

That racing starts in a few short days.

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