Daniel Ricciardo came out on top of the battle of the Red Bull Racing drivers in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, with the Australian set to start third ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen.
Ricciardo was 0.026 seconds faster than Verstappen on Saturday afternoon at the Suzuka International Racing Course, but he acknowledged that Red Bull were never in contention for a position on the front row, with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team in particular around one second a lap faster in qualifying trim.
“Once again it was pretty close between myself and Max today,” said Ricciardo. “I got the half a tenth on Max this time and he’d had it on me in Qualifying in the last few races.
“It was pretty important to be ahead and I will start third now because of Bottas’ penalty which puts me on the cleaner side of the grid, so thank you Valtteri. I will take everything I can for now and I’m happy with that result.
“I had a slightly different set-up from Max today and chose to remove some downforce which I hope will help me in the race. I haven’t seen Lewis’ lap yet but I’ve seen his time and we can’t quite do that, I think we feel we got pretty much everything out of the car today and we definitely couldn’t find a second.”
Ricciardo is hopeful of securing his first podium in Japan this weekend, with a good start his aim to have a good start to get track position around a circuit he feels is extremely difficult to overtake on.
“We will see what tomorrow brings but I think if we can stay in a podium position we will be leaving here pretty happy,” said Ricciardo. “The start will be really important for us, it’s a pretty tricky track to overtake on and strategy is likely to play in to it but if I can get them on the start then hopefully that will be where I stay.
“I hope I get my first Suzuka podium, it’s always been a fun track but I’ve never stood on the podium so that’s my target.”