Daniel Ricciardo believes Red Bull is in the hunt for victories from the start of this season despite the impressive pace shown by Mercedes in pre-season testing in Barcelona.
Having been encouraged by Red Bull’s pace on hypersoft tires when setting the fastest time on Wednesday, Ricciardo’s benchmark was comfortably beaten by both Ferrari drivers on the final two days, with even Fernando Alonso going quicker for McLaren. Although Red Bull looked as quick on the supersoft tire, it was Mercedes’ long run pace that caught the eye, and Ricciardo admits he’s struggling to identify a clear pecking order but is optimistic his team is competitive.
“We had some strong pace in testing at times but then you see others and you think you’re there and then you’re like, ‘Ah, I dunno!’,” Riccardo said. “So I think we’re looking OK. I don’t think we’re the fastest car yet, I think we’ve still got to find a bit of time but I think we’ll be close enough to be in the hunt. It’s been a better winter than last year as far as our performance went and we did a lot of laps, so we’re feeling better about ourselves than we were 12 months ago.”
However, when asked if the thinks Red Bull is the second-quickest team behind Mercedes, Ricciardo replied: “The other day, maybe a bit like that, but Ferrari turned it up the last couple of days. They had pretty good pace.
“It’s hard to say. Then you see some other teams throw in some quick times, so… I don’t think we’re yet the quickest, so I think we do still have some lap time to find but I do believe we’re in the ballpark. What does a ‘ballpark’ mean? I don’t know! But we’re there or thereabouts.”
Ricciardo is also hopeful the top teams will take points off each other from the start of the season to keep the title battle open, after Red Bull was too far off the pace at the start of 2017.
“Ideally for me, especially, I’d love to challenge in Melbourne! We’d love a good result there. We’ll try and come out with strong intentions. It looks like Ferrari may be able to challenge Mercedes at this stage if we can’t. I think we still can be close. So if they start taking some points away then we will be there. I’m looking forward to a battle.
“Hopefully it’s not too spread out this year – it looks like it could be quite close.”