MELBOURNE, Australia — Daniel Ricciardo says it would be a pretty solid Saturday if he could replicate his seventh place finish from second practice during qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix.
The Australian, who is competing in his first race for new team Renault this weekend, overcame an issue with his seatbelt — one which saw him miss out on valuable track time — to set the seventh quickest time of the day. His lap of 1:23.644 on Friday was just over a second off the pace of Lewis Hamilton’s session-topping time, but only 0.070s adrift of teammate Nico Hulkenberg in P6.
While he does believe more pace can be unlocked tomorrow, Ricciardo says the team didn’t come to Melbourne expecting to be much further up the grid, if at all.
“We were sixth and seventh today, so that’s pretty good. I don’t think we expect too much more,” Ricciardo said after Friday practice. “If we could stay there, that would be a pretty solid Saturday, but you never know, we could be quicker than we think [in qualifying].
“I feel like I can still get a bit more out of it. There’s still a lot to learn with the car and still some ways to set it up and a few little tricks here and there. But then myself, I’ll just obviously try and be critical of myself and make sure I can do better. If both cars could be in the top seven or eight, I think that would be a good start to the season.”
The 29-year-old also noted that the first qualifying session of the season will likely be tight and that a clean lap could be the difference between starting on the front two rows or the back of the top ten.
“It’s going to be quite close tomorrow,” Ricciardo said. “I feel like two tenths could make the difference with four places. Putting in a clean lap is going to be important.”
Ricciardo spent five seasons racing at Red Bull, winning seven races, before opting for a change of scenery at the end of the 2018 season. However, he’s quickly learned that a new team environment can take some time adjusting to.
“It’s certainly different,” Ricciardo said when asked how Renault compares to Red Bull. “I was with Red Bull for five years and [when something isn’t working on the car] you don’t even really think about the changes; you just do them because you know from experience. But now, if I feel something with the car, okay we could do that or we could do that – which one do we do?
“It’s just trying to figure out what is the best thing for this car to attack first, if it’s with the front wing or if it’s with the suspension. Building up that book of knowledge again. This will come.”