Daniel Ricciardo has confessed to having ‘no clue’ that Max Verstappen was given an upgraded engine for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix – nor that the Dutchman would hold a performance advantage until the end of the campaign.
For the Austin Formula 1 weekend, Renault has given one version of an updated power unit, which includes 2018 development parts, to each of its three teams. It was then up to those teams to decide which driver runs it.
Nico Hulkenberg was handed the updated specification at the factory outfit, with Brendon Hartley running it at Toro Rosso and Verstappen getting the Red Bull version.
They are the only three updated engines that will be made available this season, which means that should the other Renault-powered drivers need to change their engines, they would then have to stick to the older spec.
Asked how big a disadvantage he felt he had from running the old engine, amid suggestions the new unit is worth up to two tenths of a second, Ricciardo said: “Did we? We had different engine specs? I had no idea. Seriously… I didn’t know. Whose was faster?”
When told that Verstappen, who qualified behind him, held the advantage, Ricciardo smiled as he punched the air in delight.
It is likely that Ricciardo will change engines in the next race in Mexico – even though there is a chance he could get through the campaign with his current power unit.
“I believe I will have to take another penalty and I believe I will have a grid penalty in the next three races,” he said. “I would like to say 'no I won’t', but it is probably more likely than not at this stage.”
When pushed on whether there was any disappointment about having a different spec to Verstappen, Ricciardo joked: “Oh, so that is why Max signed his contract! I literally had no idea.
“Maybe they told me and I chose not to listen… but if that is the case, I’ll just charge my way through.”
Although Red Bull was unable to match Mercedes and Ferrari in qualifying at Austin, fourth-fastest Ricciardo thinks that he can take the fight to the front in the race – as long as he jumps third-placed Valtteri Bottas at the start
“I have to put myself there at the start,” he said. “I really need to try to jump Valtteri and put myself with Lewis [Hamilton] and Seb [Vettel] to try to run with them, and then we will go from there.
“That last run [in Q3] was encouraging. Q1 I was like over a second off the pace and we were a long way from where we needed to be, so we found a lot of time in that one hour.”