Daniel Ricciardo insisted third was the best he could have hoped for during qualifying in Spain but Red Bull Racing team-mate Sebastian Vettel will start fifteenth after breaking down in the third part of qualifying and incurring a five-place grid-drop penalty for being forced to change his gearbox.
For Australian Ricciardo, he is best of the rest behind the dominant Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, but the one-second gap to the silver machines is a virtual lifetime in Formula 1, but he admits he aims to close down that gap.
“Without putting too much attention on Mercedes, I’m happy with what I’m doing, so I think today was pretty good and I wasn’t too disappointed with the lap,” said Ricciardo. “I don’t really see how I could have improved much more today, so I think we’re doing the best we can, but now that we’re around third or fourth I want to close the gap to the silver cars!
“Looking [at the race], then I think third is the best we can do. If Mercedes continue at the pace they had today then realistically we won’t catch them, so then third, although it wouldn’t be a victory, it would be really satisfying.”
For four-time World Champion, Spain just keeps causing him grief. After missing all bar four laps of free practice on Friday before a mechanical gremlins caused him to stop on track, he managed to get through to the third part of qualifying quite comfortable, only for him to stop on track during his out lap in Q3 with a gearbox issue.
When Red Bull investigated the car on its return to the garage, it was found that the gearbox would need replacing, which resulted in an automatic five-place grid-drop penalty that saw him relegated from 10th to 15th on the grid.
“I left the garage for Q3 and lost drive in second gear; I still had third gear and above so we thought we could do the lap with that, but by Turn 1 I had lost all the other gears, so we couldn’t continue,” said a disappointed Vettel. “I was getting more in to the rhythm with each lap after missing yesterday’s sessions.
“It was quite close between the cars after the Mercedes and I think I could have had a go for P3 today, but we didn’t get that far. I’m of course quite disappointed.”
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was downbeat after Vettel’s issues but was full of praise for Ricciardo. He felt that a second-row lock out behind the Mercedes was entirely possible had it not been for the gearbox issue on Vettel’s RB10.
“I certainly think today Daniel got every ounce that he could from the car and drove a very strong qualifying to line up third, and on the second row of the grid,” said Horner. “It’s a great shame that we didn’t have Sebastian right there as well due to a gearbox issue.”