Ricciardo surprised by Williams’ qualifying pace in China

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Daniel Ricciardo believes that an improved race pace for Red Bull should put him in the fight for fifth position in tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix despite only qualifying seventh on Saturday.

Red Bull has endured a difficult start to the season in 2015, scoring just 11 points in the first two races, with a best finish of sixth place at the Australian Grand Prix.

Despite enjoying a trouble-free weekend so far in China, Ricciardo could only qualify seventh on Saturday, and admitted that he did not expect to be starting behind the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.

“Williams pulled out a little more than we thought today,” Ricciardo told NBCSN. “I knew they’d come out with a bit more than yesterday, but a little bit more than we thought.

“I think our long run stuff is looking better around this track. We solved a few issues that we’ve had with drivability and stuff which was hurting our long run pace, so I think we can definitely match their pace tomorrow and give them a good hustle.”

Red Bull’s weekend has not been without its problems, though. Daniil Kvyat suffered a brake failure during practice on Friday, and could only qualify 12th in today’s session.

However, Ricciardo believes that the issues are slowly being ironed out, and is confident that a top five finish is within his reach in China.

“We’ve still got a few [issues], but looking back at the first couple of races, there’s been significantly less,” Ricciardo said. “So long as there’s less and less, then that’s all we can ask.

“Brakes on my side have been good. I haven’t really had any issues this weekend. We got out a little bit late for practice, but generally we’ve been running pretty smooth.

“Top five is the objective. I think Ferrari has better long run pace and will be a lonely third and fourth, but I think fifth will be pretty exciting for us and Williams.”

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30a ET on Sunday.