Daniel Ricciardo is walking around the paddock at the Sakhir Circuit with a huge smile on his face this afternoon after qualifying sixth for tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Toro Rosso driver will have only two McLarens, two Red Bulls and the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg ahead of him tomorrow at the start of tomorrow’s race.
“It feels very good and I am very happy with that result,” said the Australian. “We had a below average week in China with some updates we brought. We persisted with them and we made them work significantly better here, which is down to the hard work of the whole team.
“My communication with the team was also very good and it has helped us get into Q3. I was happy with my driving and I got better and better in each of the sessions.
“It's not always you have a day like this, so I can enjoy the moment, bearing in mind that it's tomorrow that counts. Now we have to put it all together for the race and tonight we will be looking at all our strategy options regarding tyres.
“It helps to go into a race feeling confidence and starting from sixth, I have to focus on scoring as many points as possible, as this is the best chance we have had so far. I hope I am still smiling tomorrow evening.”
Jean-Eric Vergne had a much more disappointing session in the other Toro Rosso though. The Frenchman failed to make it through to Q2 for the third race running, and finished down in P19 – the worst qualifying result of the year.
He will start one place higher on the the grid tomorrow, thanks to a penalty for Pastor Maldonado, but Vergne was rather bewildered by his lowly grid position.
“I do not understand why I was so slow this afternoon, especially as the car was going well this morning and as can be seen from Daniel's impressive performance,” said the 21-year-old. “Well done to him.
“I am keen to get back to the engineers to look at the data and find out why I could not deliver the performance I was hoping for. The track was three degrees warmer this afternoon than in the morning, but I don't think it was down to that.
“I've started from the lower half of the grid before and then managed to have a good race, so given that I think the car has the potential, that is what I plan to do tomorrow.”
Chief Engineer Laurent Mekies was, above all, glad to see that the team had improved immensly since their race-to-forget last weekend in China.
“The most positive aspect of today is that we seem to have understood the reasons why we were quite slow last week in China,” he said. “We came here with a few possible solutions and it seems to have delivered reasonable results.
“Today, if you look at the qualifying times, we have mixed feelings: Daniel has secured a fantastic result after driving very well all weekend, making no mistakes. However, it did not go our way with Jean-Eric, but hopefully we can work together to deliver something better tomorrow, as he has already produced some good races from low down the grid. Daniel will have a very tough fight up there, but whatever happens, it was important to put last weekend behind us.
“Finally, a big thank you to everyone, here at the track, at the factory in Faenza and the wind tunnel in Bicester: we are coming to the end of a long and intense four race stint and it is good to see that all the hard work from everyone has delivered such a positive result today.”