Renault's Daniel Ricciardo says he simply didn't have the pace to protect his P3 position against Red Bull's Alex Albon in his final stint in Sunday's Tuscan Grand Prix
Riccardo steered clear of the chaos and mayhem that engulfed Sunday's race at Mugello, almost unassumingly holding his own among the top six in an event marked multiple crashes and no less than three standing starts and two red flags.
By lap 44, the Aussie had managed to cycle his way into the top three, even sneaking himself into P2 after a pitstop by Valtteri Bottas.
However, the Finn quickly regained his position after the final restart, leaving Ricciardo to fend off Albon until the British-Thai driver's superior pace allowed him to gain the upper hand, depriving Renault of its first podium in F1 since 2011.
"I'm smiling on the outside, there is obviously a bit of pain on the inside, you know, with everyone in the team," Ricciardo told Sky F1 as he recounted his afternoon.
"It's a little bit artificial because we know we had a great race: strategy was awesome, we undercut Stroll, starts were great, we put ourselves there…
"I think if Albon passed me on the start, we could have said we lost it. But we had and he just had more pace than us."
Ricciardo reckons that Albon's progressively lower fuel load ad soft tyres boosted the performance of the Red Bull charger's RB16 in a timely manner.
"I felt like the first two stints, he was hanging there with Stroll and myself, but it never felt like he had a lot more pace," explained the Honey Badger.
"I guess with low fuel and soft tyres, his car came alive a little more. It was the last sector, that's where you catch on to the DRS, and he broke my DRS very quickly. Didn't really have an answer…"
Ricciardo cast a positive light on Renault's performance in its most recent races, but also expressed his confidence in the team's ability to fare well at upcoming higher downforce venues.
"Spa and Monza we knew would be strong for us," he said. "This circuit I wouldn't say we had the highest of expectations.
"But putting the lap together yesterday we were a P5 car in qualie and obviously we had top-five pace all race. It's encouraging for some circuits looking forward."
Finally, the future McLaren driver gave two thumbs up to the Mugello circuit, hoping the track will remain on F1's 2021 schedule.
"It was certainly not a dull race," he said. "That’s' what we feared and we got the opposite, so we'll be happy to come back."