The AlphaTauri team at the Hungarian Grand Prix 2023 welcomed back Daniel Ricciardo to take the place of Nyck De Vries who had been let go. Ricciardo had been on loan from Red Bull since the Budapest race began. The AT04, which de Vries struggled to handle, especially when entering corners, was also among Ricciardo‘s challenges during his troubled tenure at McLaren.
Despite the car’s known hitches, Ricciardo comfortably adapted to the vehicle, overcoming an eight-month hiatus. He outperformed his teammate Yuki Tsunoda in qualifiers and ended in 13th place, notwithstanding him being knocked off by Zhou Guanyu during the race’s inception.
Jonathan Eddolls, AlphaTauri‘s head of trackside engineering, revealed that the attributes of the curvy Hungaroring leveraged by soaring temperatures actually concealed some of the car’s erratic handling. But it is yet unresolved how Ricciardo might reconcile to his novel wheels. In response to F1 Initiative’s enquiry pre-race about whether the AT04‘s corner entry weakness was still apparent, Eddolls stated, “Actually, that hasn’t been one of the biggest limitations so far of the weekend, because the tyre grip and the downforce sort of masked it. It hasn’t been such an issue here.”
Eddolls went on to highlight how unique factors at Hungaroring encouraged maximum downforce and extremely low tyre pressures. However, Eddolls admitted that rectification of the corner entry challenge, notwithstanding the team’s latest enhancements like a redesigned floor and fresh front and rear wings, is still in progress.
Eddolls stated, “The updates are aimed at addressing that. I wouldn’t say we fixed it, for sure, even though [the drivers] haven’t been commenting, and I think we understand why, so it continues to be the path that we want to take.” He added that Ricciardo didn’t flag any significant failing but reiterated the team’s goal of intensifying aerodynamic load to be more competitive in the midfield.
Ricciardo‘s initial second pit stop facilitated his overtaking of several drivers, positioning him 13th, following a traffic impasse. The break in his congested drive also provided him with significant insights about the car’s potential. Ricciardo stated, “Yeah, that was really important. I think it would have been a much more probably discouraging race and maybe still a lot of questions to be answered. Just having the pace, having the clear air and making a few mistakes, learning from those, knowing what the car likes, what it doesn’t. I think I learned a lot from the race.”