Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo believe Ferrari still have the edge over his team this year after being second-best in both practice sessions on Friday.

Ricciardo ended both sessions behind Ferrari and said the Italian team was expected to be quicker around Sepang after winning last year’s race and should still be ahead in qualifying. He remained optimistic about the race after they were more closely matched on the long runs despite still not being perfectly happy with where the car is.

“I think we did expect Ferrari to be quite quick here, obviously last year they had some good success and we’re probably, well at least me, a bit off the pace where I want to be. I think we can get closer, I think they’ll still have their nose in front come qualifying, but in the race as we know anything can happen. I don’t know what the weather forecast is, but if there’s a bit of rain we probably wouldn’t turn that down for now. Definitely want to find a bit more in the dry conditions.”

“I thought Ferrari would be a bit quicker here. With all going well we can get closer to that, we can get within a couple of tenths. So we will see tomorrow.”

“I think with qualifying it will be quite straight forward, I think the soft is giving quite a big advantage, I think everyone will try and do that and try and start the race with that. It seems to be a bit easier on the tyres as well, the new asphalt so it’s probably easy enough to do a one stop, but I think two stop looks pretty achievable for now, I think everyone will try and start on the soft and see what happens after that”

The Sepang Circuit is notorious for its heat and Ricciardo said the new, darker tarmac provides more grip and is easier on the tyres but gets heated very quickly, and more than before.

” It was hot you could feel it through the car, so that little bit of breeze now is quite nice actually!” Ricciardo added. “Track temp they recorded 61, I have never heard a number that high.”

“The last corner it’s a challenge, I wouldn’t say it’s a fun corner, you’re struggling for grip as the track falls away, but it’s a challenge so it will be interesting for everyone and I think it’s quite easy to make mistakes there so just to try and be clean.” He said of the re-profiled turn 15, which has become off-camber and requires a different line than in the past. “One time I went around the pit bollard by mistake. It doesn’t really seem yet there is an optimum line.”

Image via Red Bull Content Pool

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Ahmad Shallouf

Contributing Writer at MotorsportM8