The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver has been playing catch up after some issues during practice on Friday, but even with that he felt he should have qualified higher up the grid than he did if had found the kind of rhythm needed to be quick at the circuit.
When he brought his Ferrari out for qualifying a day later, his problems - and the rest of the field - were behind him.
Finland's Valtteri Bottas was fifth best in a Mercedes that will run with an old power unit that will be on its seventh race. In qualifying he finished at the back of the customary battle between the top three teams, almost 0.2s off Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, who managed to split the Mercedes drivers and claim third position. It is a blow for Ricciardo's title chances after he moved up to third, and within 38 points of Hamilton following his Monaco triumph.
"The race was in one way maybe a little bit boring but on the other hand you needed full focus on doing a good job".
Ricciardo's vehicle has spent more time in the garage than Verstappen's this weekend, but Ricciardo does not think he can use too much of that as an excuse for the gap to the Dutchman. Kimi Raikkonen was second fastest for Ferrari but the competitive picture was skewed by Mercedes opting against using Pirelli's fastest compound - the hyper-soft - on either auto across both practice sessions. Mercedes was very quick, but I think we are not too far away. I'm looking at the positives: "we also took two points from Lewis so we're still in the championship, we're still there". "If we can escape this weekend without it, then I'd rather take it somewhere else". When you feel confident with the auto then you can do a good job.
"It was a good day", Verstappen said.
Indeed Ricciardo could be thrown to the back of the pack, dependant on the number of engine parts his Red Bull team have to change. The one from the failure in China is alive, hence we haven't got a penalty.
Late in making his qualifying sims, the Australian was hampered by traffic but eventually managed to post a best time just 0.405s off his teammate's pace and good enough for third. His best lap was the slowest in the field at 1:17.145, but he was there just to get the feel of an F1 vehicle and help the team test it on two types of tires. "So it sets us up to be aggressive in attack, so should hopefully make for some good TV as well".
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