Ricciardo’s hope of victory dashed after nightmare qualifying

Rodney Gordon Columnist

By , Rodney Gordon is a Roar Expert

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    A disastrous qualifying session for Daniel Ricciardo has left him classified in P10 for tomorrow’s race. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel will share the front row of the grid, setting up a thrilling battle between Mercedes and Ferrari heading into Turn 1.

    Ricciardo’s car skidded sideways into the wall, his hopes of victory sliding away with it. To add insult to injury, if the team have to replace the gearbox he’ll fall further down the grid as far as P15.

    Even without his incident, there’s no question that Red Bull haven’t delivered a car capable of taking pole position.

    “I think Max’s lap was pretty tidy,” Ricciardo said of his teammate Max Verstappen, who qualified fifth.

    “So it’s not like we’re leaving a lot on the table,” he added. “For sure Ferrari and Mercedes are quicker, I look at the on-boards and the rear is more planted. It just seems like they’ve nail a bit more downforce at the moment.”

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    After qualifying Ricciardo reviewed his telemetry and found that his effort in the final session of qualifying wasn’t noticeably different than it had been earlier. Although he wasn’t looking to make excuses, the team ruled out any mechanical failure or issue with the car.

    “I was pushing but I wasn’t over-driving to an extent where I feel like I influenced it more than I should have,” he explained. “We have a lot more downforce, they’re more loaded that when they do go they’re a bit harder to bring back.”

    Hopes were high that design guru Adrian Newey could help Red Bull navigate the 2017 regulation changes and give the team the edge they needed to wrestle the ascendancy from Mercedes.

    Instead, they have over-promised and under-delivered.

    “Coming here we thought if we’re within half a second [from the leaders] that’s okay for where we are at the moment, and we can build from that,” said Ricciardo. “But we’re obviously more than a second off.”

    “For example, first practice yesterday we looked pretty competitive, and we were still keeping a few things to ourselves.”

    Even worse for Ricciardo, the team seems unable to pinpoint exactly where the performance deficit lies. All factors considered, including natural track evolution, running faster tyre options during qualifying and relative fuel loads, the performance of the car has gone backwards throughout the weekend.

    “It’s going to need more trial and error, more track time. The race will hopefully give us a few more answers tomorrow – no matter where we end up – just to try to get those laps and figure it out.”

    Even though the prospects of victory are now purely mathematical, it hasn’t stopped Ricciardo from daring to dream of a most unlikely outcome.

    “I didn’t use two sets of Ultrasofts in Q2, if I did do a two-stop then that would work in my favour,” he explains.

    So how would that play out exactly?

    “Maybe a safety-car with about 15 laps to go,” he speculates.

    “I put Ultrasofts on, by that stage I might be up to about eighth, and I come from eighth through to third and then the first two guys get disqualified.”

    Sounds like a genius strategy, if he can pull it off.