Daniel Ricciardo said that although his Saturday wasn’t “totally smooth”, he is happy with a second row start for tomorrow’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Ricciardo leapfrogged his Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team-mate Max Verstappen late on in the session to take fourth behind pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel and the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
Ricciardo bemoaned a disjointed final Free Practice session in the morning that saw numerous flags breaking up the fast running, stopping the drivers’ from fully understanding the track and tyre conditions in a windy Baku.
“I’m happy with the second row on the grid but it wasn’t a totally smooth day,” mused Ricciardo, who moved to fourth in the Drivers’ Championship following his victory at the Chinese Grand Prix nearly a fortnight ago.
“This morning we didn’t get a go on our second set of ultra-soft tyres because of the red and yellow flags.”
Ricciardo almost found himself eliminated in Qualifying 2, only saved by a slight error at the tricky Turn 16 from Lance Stroll, who had previously been on course to topple the Australian’s best effort. After a brush with the wall on his final Q2 run that rendered no damage, the 28-year-old stressed the importance of respecting the limits around the tight Baku City Circuit.
“Q2 was very close on the super-softs, we had a couple of yellow flags and it was looking a bit hairy but we just made it through,” he said.
“In Q3 on the first run I kissed the wall and then on the last lap I had to make it clean and fortunately clean was fast enough for the second row.
“It’s always tough on street circuits like this, you have to be on the limit to be fast but point five of a percent inside of the limit. Just finding that balance isn’t easy.”
Ricciardo finished by saying that he is ready for another eventful race – potentially even a “street fight” – following on from his unlikely victory at this race ten months ago, and wishes to carry the momentum he gathered in China through to this weekend. Both Red Bull cars have opted to start on the super-soft Pirelli tyres, copying both Mercedes cars and Vettel. The German’s Scuderia Ferrari team-mate, Kimi Räikkönen, will start on the ultra-soft tyres from sixth.
“I’ve felt good all weekend and obviously have good momentum from here last year and China, so we will race hard and hopefully get back on the podium. I’m looking forward to a good street fight tomorrow,” he laughed.
“I believe the top five start on super-softs and we’re all trying to avoid the ultra-soft on high fuel due to the graining in colder conditions, so that strategy makes sense for us.”
With high winds expected for tomorrow’s race, Ricciardo quipped that he will eat more than usual tonight in order to prevent him being swept away.
“I’m also going to eat lots tonight to make sure I don’t blow away in the wind tomorrow as it looks like it’s going to be pretty crazy out there!”