Daniel Ricciardo: “We’re not too far off“

by Rachel Hack

Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo was happy with the team’s performance during the first Friday practice session for the Australian Grand Prix, but felt they went in the wrong direction for FP2.

The Australian was third fastest in FP1, and just one tenth off the pace of Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Valtteri Bottas, though still half a second off the pace of the Finn’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

However, in FP2 Ricciardo could only manage to post a time fast enough to finish fifth, behind both Scuderia Ferrari drivers, and more than a second off the pace of the Mercedes. The Australian puts that down to experimenting with different set ups during the afternoon session which did not go as planned, and is confident they will be able to close the gap back up to the frontrunners going forward.

“We looked pretty strong this morning and then we tried a few things this afternoon but I don’t think they worked in our favour.

“I’d like to learn a bit more from this afternoon’s session and then if we could pull all of that together with the strength of this morning I’ll be happy.”

Having seen the pace of the silver arrows, and in particular Hamilton, Ricciardo is unsure whether they will be able to stop the Brit from taking pole position in qualifying tomorrow, but he is confident the rest of the pack are definitely within touching distance.

“Mercedes sure is quick but it’s more Lewis at the moment than Valtteri, who looks like he’s more in the group of Ferrari. I think we can be there as well. Pole might be a stretch but I think we can be in that next little group with the right set-up and the right lap in quali.

“If Lewis does the perfect lap then that’ll be a challenge to take the pole away from him but we’re not too far off. You certainly feel more traction with the new tyres.”

The Australian had expected faster lap times to be possible today, and so believes there is still plenty of room for improvement on that front.

“I thought the times would have been quicker though; this morning I felt a big chunk of grip but I was expecting low twenties. There is still time to improve tomorrow. I think the wind changes so that’ll make a quicker lap time but the traction is nice.”

Racing on home soil is a great experience for Ricciardo, who now just wants to get out there and put on a fantastic display for the home crowd.

“It felt awesome to be out on the track this morning, I just felt I was back in my happy place and it was cool to already see so many fans on a Friday. It’s also a circuit I enjoy because it’s a fun layout. I think we can have a very good weekend from here.”

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