Ricciardo is optimist RB can “shuffle its way towards the front,” after missing out on Q3 in Bahrain

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A rather promising track debut for the VCARB 01 as Daniel Ricciardo closed the first day of testing in P4, paired with Lando Norris’ McLaren and Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, only 1.2s off Max Verstappen and his RB20.

The car – at least at first glance – seems to have everything to battle it off with McLaren at the top of the midfield.

Things, however, did not go quite as expected on this first qualifying session, with both drivers not making it into Q3. 

“I was disappointed, I would say, in my position slash performance,” commented Ricciardo on Friday.

“I never really crossed the line being like ‘yeah, I did a clean lap’. You know, there was always, I know I can make time in turn one or turn four, or there was always some parts on the track where I knew there was lap time, but I never really was able to put it together.” 

“You know, even if I improved a little bit, then I’d probably lose a bit in the next corner, so it kind of seesawed a bit. I was never progressively kind of gaining, so I felt like from that point of view, I wasn’t that happy with my session.” 

A session that ended with him ending down in P14 at the end of Q2, meaning he will be starting the Bahrain Grand Prix in between the Williams of Alex Albon and the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.

“I think in terms of team and performance, this is kind of where we thought we were. I feel like there’s a bit more time on the table, but taking Yuki in 11th, kind of felt like that if we do a great lap, Q3 is possible. But otherwise we’re probably around that top 12 area.”

Hence, the disappointment is rather for the single performance than the feeling of the car, which appears to have good potential.

“I think it’s where we are for now. We expected a little bit of a steady start to the year, so I wouldn’t say we’re disappointed,” explained Ricciardo.

“I’m a bit disappointed in my session, but I think as a whole, we’re not like worried or panicked. I think it’s where we thought it would ultimately be. But yeah, I just, I’m disappointed I couldn’t find those extra couple of tenths.”

A couple of tenths that could have been well worth a few places considering how close teams’ times look this year, making the Australian even more “grumpy” with himself that he could not get the most out of the car and start in the top 10.

“From that point of view as well, 14th on paper doesn’t look great, but I think  looking at the times, it’s all very close and there’s a lot to still be quite optimistic about,” he commented.

“And as I said, I know there was some easy lap time I left on the table. So on one hand I’m like ‘oh yeah, it’s there’,  but obviously I’m disappointed I didn’t put it together because that’s what qualifying is for and you’re meant to put it together when it counts.”

“I think there’s a bit to obviously feel with the car and understand, but not really concerned or anything. I think it’s just probably more within myself than kind of at the team at the moment.”

This being the first racing weekend there are indeed still some adjustments to make to find the best set up and what better time to test out a single-seater than pushing it to the limit in quali?

“The weekend had been going pretty smooth so far and I was relatively comfortable. I mean, every session we make some setup changes, so we’re still trying to chase the car a little bit, but nothing crazy. And yeah, I would say quali when, probably  in the conditions where everything is normally the best, I probably struggled a bit more than I have in other sessions,” he went on.

“But I think it’s just when you’re pushing the car to the limit, you know, you kind of expose a few other things and maybe I wasn’t as proactive with that and then reading kind of the conditions in the car.”

Nothing major to improve, only a few adjustments here and there that put together a better lap overall and make it possible to gain quite a bit of time.

“I just struggled to put the lap together, I felt like if I pushed really hard in one corner, then I would probably mess up the next corner. It was a little bit tricky to just consistently improve in every corner, I felt like you’d gain a bit here, lose a bit there, then get it back, so it was a bit of a struggle,” he explained. 

“For example, turn one, I missed the apex quite a few times, just not getting the front in, but every lap I was like ‘oh yeah, I know where that is’. You know, brake and turn a little bit earlier, but I would still be looking past the apex when I got there. […] I just missed a little bit, for sure a little bit in maybe some setup or feeling with tyres” 

Looking ahead to the race, however Ricciardo feels rather confident he can indeed get into the points.

“Everything’s close, so there’s a lot to play for. I think you just have that extra tenth or two in the race to manage the tyres better, then you can definitely be fighting in the points.”

The aim this season seems to be keeping up with McLaren, something that does not seem so out of reach if we look at race pace, starting from gaining track positions on what was the star of quali: Nico Hulkenberg and his Haas who will be up in P10 at lights out.

“Nico did a really good job today and if you look at it, obviously I’m not saying this is last year, but if you look at last year, they normally struggle a bit more on race day. So if that’s the same trend, then maybe that’s one car we can potentially fight,” he said.

“McLarens, I think, are quick and we weren’t too bad in the long runs, so there’s some optimism that we could kind of maybe shuffle our way towards  the front.”

“And it’s a first race, anything can happen as well. Like some people might be excited, some people might be nervous, some people might be ‘OMG,’  so you never know. Just I have to keep my head on a swivel and the rest will follow, my body should follow.”