Daniel Ricciardo has expressed his surprise at Red Bull Racing’s frontrunning pace during the opening day of practice for the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix.
The Milton Keynes squad had targeted being a contender for World Championship honours in 2017, but has started the season over a second a lap adrift of the early title leaders, Mercedes and Ferrari, on qualifying pace alone.
Ricciardo was therefore surprised to end Friday’s running at the Bahrain International Circuit as a top-three runner in both sessions – he was second-fastest in FP1 and third-fastest in FP2, respectively 0.4 seconds and 0.066 seconds behind the sessions’ fastest driver, Sebastian Vettel.
Speaking to the media after practice, the Australian was at a loss to explain his unexpected competitiveness.
“If it was qualifying I’d take that, for now,” said Ricciardo.
“I’m not reading too much into the low-fuel stuff. At the moment it looks good, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense compared to a week ago, so we’ll be reserved [in our judgment]. But it was generally a good day, with a lot of laps.”
Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen, who claimed an amazing podium finish at last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, had a more troubled session. The Dutch teenager finished eighth-fastest in FP2, with his session compromised after striking the T-wing that fell off Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes.
He too was puzzled by the pace of the RB13 package, although frustrated that he was not yet able to replicate his teammate’s pace.
“It’s a bit strange,” he added.
“[On my side] we’re struggling still a bit. We both ran two different configurations on the car, but still I’m not entirely happy with it, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
“At least the other side of the garage looks quite competitive.”
Image via Red Bull Racing