Daniel Ricciardo believes a podium finish is the best Red Bull can manage at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, conceding that Mercedes and Ferrari are too far ahead in the pecking order.
F1’s rule shake up has allowed Ferrari to leapfrog last year’s runner-up Red Bull, with Sebastian Vettel also overhauling Mercedes to win the Australian Grand Prix.
While the focus on aerodynamics and chassis in general was expected to favour Red Bull - who has design genius Adrian Newey as its technical officer - in 2017, the Milton Keynes-based outfit has instead fallen behind the game.
As a result, Ricciardo is keeping a lid on his expectation for the second round of the championship, saying a top-three finish is the best he can hope for in Shanghai.
“To start and finish [in Shanghai], that’s my target,” he told the South China Morning Post. “To finish qualifying and to start the race. That will already be better than Melbourne. We want to get close to Ferrari and Mercedes. If we can get closer to the podium, that already will be a better result
“A podium [finish] would be a strong weekend for us. That’s what we are targeting but we have to get closer to Ferrari and Mercedes. Progress is what we are chasing for now and hopefully that will put us closer to the podium.”
While Ferrari had an upper hand in Australia, partly down to their strategy to extend Vettel’s first stint, Ricciardo believes Mercedes is still F1’s benchmark team.
“In a way, it’s nice that someone [Ferrari] took the win away from Mercedes," he said. "I still think Mercedes are the quickest package and they are the team to beat but it’s good that some people can take points away from them for now and hopefully gives us the chance to be in the fight.”
Ricciardo endured a horrifying home race a fortnight ago, where he crashed in qualifying and suffered several technical issues later in the race.
However, the Australian says he has already moved on from the dreadful experience, and is looking forward to the Chinese GP.
“Even on Monday morning after the race I was fine,” he said. “I understand that’s how it works. It’s a shame that it had to happened in Australia. I would love a good home weekend but it was hard for us. But I’m ready to go for China. I’m feeling good about this weekend.”
by Rachit Thukral