Malaysian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo conceded his car is down on straight-line speed compared to Red Bull Racing teammate Max Verstappen after being narrowly outpaced by the Dutchman in qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Australian finished sixth-fastest overall, just six-hundredths of a second off Verstappen’s pace, but both found themselves outpaced by the Ferraris of Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel in the final reckoning in what was an extremely close session.
Despite qualifying slower than the red cars, Ricciardo expressed confidence that he could work his way onto the podium on Sunday afternoon.
“Ferrari were a little bit quicker than expected, they were solid,” he said after qualifying.
“I don’t know what race car they have but I think we have made a good compromise [on set-up]. It would be better to be on the second row.
“I think we can still fight for the podium in the dry. Our long run pace yesterday was really solid and even though we didn’t qualify as well as we would have liked, I am confident we could find our way through tomorrow.”
While delivering a repeat of toppling the front-row starting Mercedes’ could be too big an ask, Ricciardo will have to focus on the threat from within his own garage after being outqualified by Verstappen for the fourth time this season.
“I was down on the straights, I was losing straight line speed. It is not the first time, there were signs of it last week [in Malaysia],” he added.
“It had a bigger effect this week. It was just a bit frustrating. I felt I did all I could with the car in [qualifying], but it looked like we lost a good little chunk, as least down the straights. Comparing my car to Max’s, even in qualifying you see the overlays [that I am slower].”
Verstappen, meanwhile, was left to rue a lack of speed through Suzuka’s lower-speed corners and finished two-tenths of a second down on the lead Ferrari of Räikkönen.
“We always want to be in front, but somehow today in the low-speed corners it didn’t really work out for us, where we are usually very strong,” he explained.
Both Verstappen and Ricciardo will gain one grid position and start from fourth and fifth places respectively, thanks to Vettel’s three-place grid penalty for his opening lap antics at the Malaysian Grand Prix where he collided with Nico Rosberg.
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