Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo believes that his team is currently lacking the pace compared to their main rivals Ferrari in Suzuka.

The Scuderia easily cleared Red Bull in the first practice session as Ferrari set their times on the soft tyre, while Red Bull only ran the two harder compounds.

During FP2 when both teams had the chance to run the soft compound, Red Bull found itself trailing Ferrari as Kimi Raikkonen’s best time was almost half a second faster than Max Verstappen.

Ricciardo’s first attempt around the Suzuka circuit was interrupted after a virtual safety car brought out by Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas, which had become stranded out on track due to a turbo failure.

While his flying lap was looking good on the timesheets, the Australian admits Raikkonen’s time of a 1:32.573 was out of reach today.

“It was a pretty good day, a pretty good afternoon,” said Ricciardo. “We made some improvements from this morning, so the lap that we had to abort was probably going to be a…was definitely in the 32s, so probably just behind Kimi’s time.

“Ferrari looked pretty strong but we are sort of close enough for today, so that was okay. But Kimi’s time was solid today. If I was able to complete that lap I probably wouldn’t not have been quicker than him anyway. So that was solid. Tomorrow we can squeeze a bit more out of it, but we definitely have a challenge. The top three teams will be going hammer and tong the rest of the year.”

Given Ferrari had chosen to bring an extra three sets of soft compound tyres to Japan in comparison to Red Bull, the Scuderia was able to run extra laps in first practice while Red Bull remained on the harder compounds. Despite Ferrari’s aggressive approach to the weekend, Ricciardo remains coy about his team’s strategy for the rest of the weekend.

“You could still get to a situation where we both had the same tyres by race day,” he continued.

“But they look like they came with a very aggressive approach. It is cool to have something different. We are a bit conservative; they are aggressive so we will see what works out on Sunday.

Image via Red Bull Content Pool

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Josh Kruse

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