Daniel Ricciardo expects the Toro Rosso team to be more competitive in the race than they will be in qualifying if Friday Practice at Suzuka is anything to go by. The Australian was sixteenth this afternoon, 2.3s off the pace, which suggests a battle to reach Q2 tomorrow but Ricciardo was more optimistic with his long run pace in FP2.
“It’s a really nice circuit, I am happy to be back after my first experience here last year and I had fun driving it today. I particularly like the 130R, which is very challenging with the DRS and it’s the point on the track where you sometimes hold your breath! This morning we started from our usual baseline and then I felt we could make some changes which we did in between the sessions. I think these improved the car even if it did not seem to help us close the gap to our opponents, which suggests everyone is making some steps forward. However, I am happy we have made progress and, as usual in fact, it seems our long run pace looks more competitive than our qualifying pace, which is important given that the points are only scored on Sunday.”
Jean-Eric Vergne was two tenths slower than his teammate in seventeenth but the French rookie seemed much happier with the team’s competitiveness heading into the weekend.
“Another circuit that I had only seen on the simulator until today and I have to say it’s really nice. The best part is the first part, the Esses, which is great fun to drive. Apart from that, I would say we had a positive first day of practice, a normal Friday, when the times don’t mean much as we don’t know what fuel loads everyone else has. I’d say we seem in pretty good shape, even if there are still some areas we can work on to find more performance for the rest of the weekend. As this is my first time here, I am also improving every time I go on track and so there is more to come from me too. I ran both tyres and that side of the package seems reasonably straightforward.”