A third of the way through his last weekend as an Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver, Daniel Ricciardo was in a buoyant mood after a promising Friday for the team.
Ricciardo trailed team-mate Max Verstappen as Red Bull secured their fourth 1-2 finish in Free Practice 1 throughout 2018. In the evening’s Free Practice 2 session, the Australian once again followed Verstappen, this time in third, as Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport and Valtteri Bottas gave a glimpse of their potential at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Less than two-tenths off of Bottas’s pace in ambient conditions expected to be similar to those in qualifying and the race, Ricciardo hopes that Red Bull’s pace can continue after a pleasing start. Additionally the Australian highlighted the variable of tyre wear, suggesting that warmer track temperatures could play into their hands.
“It was a pretty good Friday and it went well for both cars,” Ricciardo summarised. “Hopefully it will stay the same tomorrow as it’s all very close at the moment.
“The tyres are certainly degrading in the heat which I think will help us. The hyper-soft shows a bit more wear on the fronts and the [ultra-softs] and [super-softs] have more on the rears.
“We’re normally in as good a shape as anyone, if not better, with the tyres so it will be important to stay on top of that and take advantage during the race.”
Despite the bold opening statement, Ricciardo says that Red Bull have more one-lap pace to find – expressing his excitement in that fact that Red Bull can extract more performance. The 29-year-old, who moves to the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team for 2019, has suffered eight retirements in ’18 – six of those coming after his thrilling victory at Monaco in May.
“We looked strong on the long runs today and although there is still a bit to find on the short runs, the exciting thing is that there’s more to come from the car,” he buzzed.
“Since Monaco I’ve been hoping for a strong weekend and now this is my last chance with the team, I want it even more. It’s only Friday so I don’t know what’s possible in the race yet, but hopefully we can be somewhere on the podium if we perform well in qualifying.”
Ricciardo and Red Bull are cemented in their respective championship standings of sixth and third, regardless of the result in Abu Dhabi.