Daniel Ricciardo admits he had resigned himself to not taking part in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix as Red Bull faced a race against time to make an engine change.
FP3 saw Ricciardo stop with a suspected turbo failure, pulling off the track exiting the penultimate corner having suffered the problem on the long back straight. That meant the car only returned to the Red Bull garage with a little over two hours before qualifying and required a power unit change.
Despite Renault not having a full spare power unit prepared for Red Bull to fit, the team managed to send Ricciardo out near the end of Q1 and he started his one timed lap with 70 seconds left on the clock.
Asked how close he was to missing out on qualifying, Ricciardo replied: “About a minute to go.
“Obviously it was really close – definitely weren’t doing it for the cameras. That was literally as quick as we could have got out. With about half an hour to go I went in to see the engineers, I said, ‘How are we looking?’ I was always going to get ready regardless but they were realistic as opposed to optimistic and they said it’s going to be very tight. It was kind of like, ‘Get ready but sorry if it doesn’t happen.’
“I was obviously prepared but didn’t really expect it so it was cool to get out there. We had a bit going on but very happy to have got it done for the boys as well. They worked their arse off for two hours and if we had just missed it by a minute it would have been heartbreaking.”
Ricciardo managed to progress in 14th place in Q1 and duly ended qualifying sixth, one position behind teammate Max Verstappen. With both Ferrari and Mercedes ahead starting on the soft compound tire, Ricciardo is hopeful Red Bull will have an advantage off the line using the ultrasofts it used in Q2.
“It’s a pretty short run to Turn 1 in Shanghai – if it’s a long one obviously their horsepower is going to give them an advantage but here I think it’s probably more traction-biased than power-biased because of the short run.
“Obviously us having the ultrasoft, if we make a clean launch, I think we can try and get at least one spot, just on pure performance. Hopefully it’s short enough that the power doesn’t compromise the good start we could have.”