Singapore is one of the last places you would want to start at the back of the grid, but Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo not only found himself there, but technically demoted another 10 places, after two infringement penalties got him off to his worst start in F1.
It left his team furious and labelling the race a “waste of time” after the Australian driver’s qualifying result was ruled null and void.
Ricciardo managed to seize eighth in qualifying at the Marina Bay Circuit on Saturday only to be slapped with a demotion to last place, quashing his chances at the main game in the Singapore Grand Prix.
The technical breach occurred when the cars energy recovery system had a sudden power spike – when the Australian ran over a kerb – that exceeded the regulated limit on his second-fastest lap in the first qualifying run, where he slipped through in 12th position.
Renault decided to not appeal the steward’s decision but also claimed the advantage had been a miserly 0.000001s and “offered no measurable benefit” to Ricciardo’s eventual finish at 8th on the grid.
But for the Perth-born driver, that’s not where the bad news ended.
On Sunday, Renault confirmed Ricciardo would take new energy recovery system electronics on his power unit for the race, triggering a 10-place grid drop despite already being relegated to the rear.
On a circuit where track position is vital, Ricciardo criticised the steward’s decision as going “against the good of the sport”.
“They ruined it for them (the Aussie fans in Singapore) to be honest, they’ve ruined it for me, it’s terrible actually,” Ricciardo said on Sky Sports.
“They’ve done the right things on track as far as the racing and let that go, handing out less penalties during the race which all drivers have been pretty in line with and they’ve done well on that front, but doing this yesterday, it’s going against everything they’re trying to get from the sport.
“It wasn’t even quantifiable the gain. Treat it like a track limit, if you go off the track, delete that lap but don’t take the whole qualifying away.
“Qualifying is everything here, so I’ve basically flown halfway around the world for … they’ve wasted my time now.”
In the race, the 30-year-old’s luck seemed to have turned around as he did his best to entertain the fans and climbed as high as third place thanks to some trademark overtaking and other cars pitting early.
“We’re not f—ing around tonight,” he told the team on the radio.
But misfortune struck again when contact with Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi gave him a puncture and left him 14th at the flag. It’s the third time in four races that Ricciardo has finished in 14th place, however he can take encouragement from the fact the car showed reasonable pace at a circuit so different to Monza.
Left with a feeling of what could have been, Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul praised Ricciardo’s efforts saying: “The race was marred by many incidents, which we didn’t benefit from.
“Daniel’s comeback after his disqualification was remarkable on a track like this. Contact sent him back to square one. Once again this shows how important the starting positions [are].”
The teams now have a quick turnaround to Russia this weekend.