Daniel Ricciardo revealed the Sochi Autodrom track is a hard circuit to put a lap together due to the variation in grip levels, and was satisfied to end up sixth fastest during qualifying on Saturday.
The Red Bull Racing driver will start fifth due to Sebastian Vettel’s grid penalty, and expects a battle with Williams during Sunday’s Grand Prix in Russia, even if their usual tyre advantage will count for very little this weekend due to the smoothness of the track.
“We gained one position with Seb’s penalty so to start 5th is not bad and we are about a tenth off Felipe so it’s close,” said Ricciardo. “The track makes it hard to put a lap together, the grip comes and goes so it’s not easy to put all the sectors together but generally I’m happy.
“We are obviously a long way off the Mercedes but we expected that so if we can race the Williams tomorrow that would be good.
“We don’t have much of an advantage here because it’s a one stop, everyone is able to push on the tyres and it will be flat out for a majority of the race therefore we are not able to do much with strategy. If we finish in the top five, that would be a very good result for us.”
Team-mate Daniil Kvyat admitted he ran out of time to warm up his tyres sufficiently ahead of his qualifying run, meaning the Russian could only manage eighth on the grid, and expects a tough race on Sunday around a track he does not expect to be too strong around.
“Our lap times during the whole session today were consistent which is good,” said Kvyat. “I thought we could find something extra for Q3 but unfortunately we didn’t have time to do our warm up lap, so I had to go straight to the push lap with slightly cold tyres.
“That left us with understeer and costs us a couple of tenths. But I am generally happy with qualifying at this track which is challenging for us.
“The tyre life here is quite long and this will help Williams as they look strong on this track, we knew that would be the case and I don’t expect the situation to change too much in the race.
“This track is not the strongest for us but we will try and bring some points home.”