Daniel Ricciardo is concerned Sebastian Vettel is already starting to pull away in the drivers’ championship standings as a result of Red Bull’s reliability issues.
Vettel has won each of the opening two races to secure a maximum of 50 points this year, while Ricciardo was limited to fourth place after a grid penalty at the opening round in Australia. Last week in Bahrain, Friday practice showed Red Bull to have competitive race pace, but Ricciardo was forced to retire on the race’s second lap. He admits the 38-point advantage Vettel holds over him in the championship is already significant.
“Yeah that’s the thing; I was obviously pretty happy after Melbourne because we had a fast car, but also we left with a good handful of points,” Ricciardo said. “But obviously after Bahrain it’s like ‘Woah! Seb’s on 50, we’re on 12.’ It’s still very early but we just can’t afford to let them get much further away because it is so hard to claw back that advantage.
“We need to have a clean weekend, there’s only been two but we need to start with a podium and try build some momentum. I know the team, everyone is motivated. I obviously haven’t lost any motivation at all, if anything, I think I’ve been biting my lip so hard that’s why I’ve got this [a fat lip]. Pretty jacked up, I just wanna race.”
Despite his confidence, Ricciardo admits Red Bull has yet to prove its race pace, having been out of position in Australia and then had both cars fail to complete more than three laps in Bahrain.
“I think the car’s performing well. We are still trying to find more from it but I think the base of the car certainly started off a lot better than last year, I think aerodynamically. It’s just more sound, it feels like more of a racecar, a bit more confidence throwing the car around and what not. We’ve definitely made steps but again, I believe both races we had a podium car and obviously we haven’t got there so we need to start converting some of these results for what we believe we’ve got.
“Again, we were there two races but it’s no good having maybe the fastest car if we’re not winning with it. We’ve just got to put it all together. Obviously Max [Verstappen]’s weekend was pretty up and down, and then the race was short for both of us.
“So yeah, hopefully a smooth weekend and then really see what the potential is like. We obviously assume we have a very quick car but we’ve got to do a whole race and see now. This circuit will be different, front-limited so it’ll be a different characteristic, but if we can be fast here then maybe we’ve got a good car in all conditions.”
Having watched the closing laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix from his hotel, Ricciardo – who is out of contract at the end of the year and has been linked with a move to either Mercedes or Ferrari – says he would have differed from Valtteri Bottas’ approach and attempted a move for the win against Sebastian Vettel on the final lap.
“I would have tried to win. Definitely.
“I am cheering for some excitement for sure. I don’t mind if Seb wins, Valtteri wins, I am not bothered, but for sure, I was watching and I was like ‘make a move, go, go, go!’ because obviously the fans want to see it as well but obviously, he didn’t.
“Look, maybe in Valtteri’s head he was like ‘I will get him in Turn 4’ in the end. For me, the first opportunity you have to take. If he locked up and went wide, he’s still finishing second, so. Anyway, I don’t want to tell him all of my tips of what I would do but I wouldn’t be content, if it’s for a win, you just can’t. That’s not in me at least, I don’t think.
“You have to. That’s what it is. I’d much rather try than sit behind and wonder.”