Ricciardo: Mercedes is within reach


Just days after retiring on the opening lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo appeared to suffer another major setback when his turbocharger detonated in a cloud of smoke leaving it doubtful whether he would even get to take part in qualifying.

However, sterling work by his crew meant the popular Aussie headed out with under five minutes to spare, and though restricted to one flying lap in Q1 he was eventually able to put his Red Bull sixth on the grid.

"Ferrari has had really good pace all weekend and I can't say honestly now that we're going to have their pace tomorrow but Mercedes definitely look within reach," he told reporters with almost infectious positivity. "To my mind there's still a spot up on the podium for grabs so we'll try and aim for that."

However, when asked if the ongoing problems with Renault that have witnessed not only his issues this season but in the final races of 2017, the smile all but disappeared.

"I'd never give up hope," he said, "but for sure the window of optimism reduces over time. I try not to really set any expectations on anything now, I just roll with it and hopefully it all works sweet. If it doesn't, it's always going to be difficult to take.

"Unfortunately it's a little bit familiar territory," he added. "We've had our ups and downs for the last few years. So this is not new to me. But I would say that after winter testing we didn't expect to be here in race three with the issues in Bahrain and this morning already. Winter testing looked a lot more positive from a reliability standpoint."

Asked about the engine change over the break, which was further complicated by the fact the spare hadn't been fully built, he said: "It was really close.

"We weren't doing it for the cameras," he added. "That was literally as quick as we could have got out.

"With about half an hour to go I went in to see the engineers and said 'how are we looking?'," he revealed. "I'd say they were realistic as opposed to optimistic and said 'it's going to be very tight'. It was like 'get ready, but sorry if it doesn't happen'.

"We had a bit going on but I'm very happy to have got it done, for the boys as well," he added, "they worked their arse off for two hours and if we'd just missed it by a minute it would have been heart-breaking."

Asked if the ongoing issues with Renault will impact his decision in terms of his contract talks with Red Bull, he said: "We'll assess it after a few more races, we'll see how we're traveling. Once we get to Europe a lot of things will settle with car performance and then we'll probably start to see trends."

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Published: 14/04/2018
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