Ricciardo: Lack of track time but a podium is realistic

After the euphoria of his magnificent Monaco Grand Prix victory, Daniel Ricciardo was handed a dose of misfortune which has put him on the back foot even before he arrived in in Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix weekend.

Friday was fraught with niggles for Ricciardo and his track time severely curtailed as a result. He recovered to do good mileage in the one-hour FP3 session on Saturday but was struggling to find the right setup and balance on his car.

He ended the session half a second adrift of Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen and explained, “Saturday morning we were a fair bit different, across cars, and obviously, we were not that great this morning, so we came back.”

“It was kind of where we were yesterday and a little bit further in that direction, and that was where Max was, so we’re pretty close now.”

By Ricciardo’s own admission, the Monaco weekend and aftermath took its toll, while the subsequent issues which kept him in the garage on Friday simply exacerbated the situation.

Meanwhile, underfire Verstappen raised his game and found the sweet spot early which he milked to stay unbeaten throughout the three free practice sessions, before delivering a mighty performance in qualy to claim third on the grid, his teammate was sixth.

Ricciardo acknowledged, “I definitely feel some of it has just been that lack of track time, lack of rhythm. I think that’s contributed to it, and also he’s just been driving really well all weekend.”

“I think [Max] has been comfortable from the start, and he’s been able just to kind of set it up each run, they haven’t really changed their car much at all. We’re chasing our tail a bit more.”

“So it’s a combination of that and the fact that he’s just been driving really well. The result on paper, I’m not happy with sixth, but am I happy with the way I drove and actually what we did? Yeah.

“Obviously, it’s the tail end of that pack, which is why I’m not happy – but looking at kind of where we were, it doesn’t make me satisfied, but I feel we did all we could with what we had,” revealed Ricciardo.

Both Red Bull drivers will start the race on the faster pink band Pirelli Hypersofts while their rivals have the more durable purple band Ultrasofts bolted on for the start thus setting the stage for an intriguing strategy contest between the Big Three.

“Obviously it’s still a difficult track to overtake, but for sure I think – I don’t know to what point, but I would at least guess the first three laps, we should have a bit of an advantage,” predicted Ricciardo.

“And if the others are sliding around in dirty air or whatever, we should be able to just get a bit more out of them [the tyres]. It sets us up to be aggressive and attacking, should hopefully make some good TV as well.”

Ricciardo was expected to serve a penalty for Canada after a MGU-K failure on his way to victory in Monaco. Red Bull averted a penalty by reverting to an earlier MGU-K which had failed but was still usable.

The Aussie who was spared a grid drop said, “I am still happy with the decision. If the start goes well and we gain a position or two, then I don’t think a podium is unrealistic as long as we get the hypers to lap whatever it is to still do a one stop. But I prefer to start towards the front here.”

“I know sixth isn’t the best position but it is still better than 15th. If we got in that mess around here on this circuit, it is not as bad as Monaco but it is still very difficult to make much progress here.”

“I don’t think a podium is unrealistic, as long as we get the hypers to lap whatever-it-is, to still do a one-stop,” added Ricciardo who scored his maiden Formula 1 victory at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2016.