Red Bull Racing may not have expected to narrow the gap between the surging Sebastian Vettel and Silver Arrows but that is what they have achieved, as Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth in qualifying, just three tenths down on the Scuderia Ferrari.
His time was 1:29.545s compared to Vettel’s 1:29.247s. This improvement, though narrow in margin, seemed to take the Australian by surprise.
“It’s been a good and positive day today,” he said. “We didn’t expect much to change from China to here but now we’re a lot closer to pole than we were a week ago so we’ll take that.”
Team boss Christian Horner had been hoping that the Red Bulls could get ahead of the Ferraris, and qualifying ended with one ahead of one.
“To be on the second row and to get ahead of a Ferrari is a good surprise,” continued Ricciardo. “We kind of thought if we put everything together then there might be a chance of a second row and we got it.”
Ricciardo is not jumping the gun, however, and knows that the team remain off the pace that they desire. They will therefore concentrate on maintaining a steady gap in the race tomorrow, trying to avoid the deficits of last year between the front-runner and the field, and maintain their concentration all the way through so they are ready to pounce should anyone come into trouble.
“We’re learning and are getting a bit more out of the car as well which is great to see,” he added. “If tomorrow Mercedes and Ferrari run into some tyre degradation maybe we can have a bit of a go.
“But the aim now is to try and maintain this gap in the race and stay within half a second or second each lap and to replicate our pace during qualifying in the long runs.”