Daniel Ricciardo says Red Bull must start in the top three to give itself a strong chance of winning the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Red Bull has won three races so far this season, with one of those being Ricciardo’s success from pole position in Monaco. After a competitive showing on Friday at the Hungaroring — a track that shares some similarities with Monaco due to a lack of long straights — Ricciardo is wary of a step forward from Mercedes and Ferrari but believes Red Bull has the ability to fight for the front row.
“That’s always the difficult one for us, to continue like this,” Ricciardo said. “I think we can continue, it’s just the others find a bit more. I’m sure Mercedes will find more tomorrow on one lap. Ferrari already seem fast so I think now they are probably the target that everyone’s trying to chase.
“I still think on one lap today we didn’t execute it perfectly, so I’m confident there’s still a few tenths in our package, but even with a good racecar — which we have in all the long runs — the first row is what I want to qualify on. No doubt. But second row might not still be a disaster. We don’t want to be on the third, but the top two, we’ll aim for that.
“It’s difficult. I think we’ll be able to [win] if we’re the quicker car on Sunday; we’ll find a way, but we don’t want to make too much work for ourselves. Tomorrow is an important day. Front row is the objective, but the front two rows I think we can still manage there. If we’re both on the third row then I think it’s going to be a difficult race.
“It’s not going to come for free. I think on one lap we’re there today, didn’t quite show it on the lap times — Seb inched ahead of the both of us — but there’s still more in that. But we know Ferrari and I’m sure Mercedes will find more tomorrow. But if we execute a good lap tomorrow I think we can still be there close enough. I’d love to say pole but I’ll take top three for now, I think with a faster car we can still win from there.”
After topping the first practice session and finishing third in FP2, Ricciardo believes Red Bull has more pace in hand but sees tire preparation as key to Saturday’s hopes.
“I think [it’s important to] just execute a good lap when the tire’s on, on that one lap. I think if we put a good enough lap together with our car then we can be there in the top three.
“I think it will be a three-team battle for the rest of the weekend. I think on one lap now Ferrari just has an edge, I think coming into Saturday they’re normally a bit stronger, but I’m confident we can actually stay strong through tomorrow. I’m sure Sunday we will be strong but tomorrow is important to qualify on the front row or the first two rows, so I have confidence we will still manage that.
“We’ll be more competitive this weekend, all weekend. We won’t exit the top three.”