Daniel Ricciardo admitted he was a little surprised to qualify in the top ten for his home Grand Prix in Australia today. The Toro Rosso driver had aspirations of Q3 heading into the weekend but suspected it would be tough when the session began.
The Australian eventually knocked out Fernando Alonso to secure his place in the top ten and after saving a set of tyres in Q3, feels confident of a good race result tomorrow.
“That was nice! The ambition at the start of the weekend, as far as qualifying was concerned, was to get into Q3 and we have achieved that. Before we got to Melbourne, we did not have a clear idea of how our pace would compare with the other teams. In fact, I thought Q3 might have been a little bit out of reach, so this was a really positive result for me and for the team. We should have a strong race as we are in good shape, so it will be a case of trying to get the best start possible followed by a good opening lap and see how we get on from there. It will be a bit of a new experience for me compared to last year as this is the first time I start a Grand Prix from as high as the mid-field. Today, we have laid the groundwork for Sunday and Jean-Eric is not far behind me, which will keep me on my toes, so as a team we can be pleased with the work we have done.”
Teammate Jean-Eric Vergne will in-fact start his first Grand Prix from 11th, right behind Ricciardo, after narrowly missing the cut in Q2. The Frenchman was slightly disappointed after coming so close to a top ten place but hopes to make that up in the race.
“That was not bad I think, even if it is a bit disappointing to have missed out on Q3 by a very small margin. I got a very good lap in Q1, a bit less so in Q2. But I still have a lot to learn at this stage and the main thing is that everything went well and I am enjoying all the new experiences. There are many positives to be taken from the way qualifying went and I feel we have a car that should work well in tomorrow's race. I am looking forward to it – it should be fun. My target for tomorrow? To score some points.”
Chief Engineer Laurent Mekies was thrilled to see his inexperienced driver pairing emerge from a competitive midfield battle which such a strong result.
“The outcome of qualifying is positive, especially when you consider the mid-field is extremely close which meant we had an enjoyable fight with our rivals. Because of yesterday's rain, everyone really only had this morning to sort out their cars and this added to the difficulty for our drivers. Ending up P10 and P11, in Daniel's case at his first race with us and in Jean-Eric's case on his first ever Formula 1 qualifying, is a very good sign. Tomorrow, anything can happen, especially as we are in the middle of the field. We will do our best and I'm sure that for the spectators it will be a great race to watch.”