Daniel Ricciardo admitted that he was surprised by the lack of pace showed by Mercedes during qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday.
Coming into the weekend, Mercedes look poised to equal Williams’ record of 24 straight pole positions with its streak dating back to last year’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had struggled during practice on Friday, but Ricciardo and eventual pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel believed that Mercedes was sandbagging at the time.
However, come qualifying on Saturday night, the Silver Arrows could not compete with either Ferrari or Red Bull, leaving Hamilton and Rosberg fifth and sixth on the grid respectively.
Ricciardo led Red Bull’s charge to qualify second in Singapore, finishing half a second down on former teammate Vettel at the front.
“It’s nice to be back up here,” Ricciardo said after qualifying. “Front row as well, it’s been a while. It’s good. Bit of a coincidence it’s Seb and I, but it should be a good race tomorrow.
“I think already qualifying was exciting. To have no Mercedes up here is a surprise to everyone. I thought they were playing some card games yesterday, it seemed that they’re obviously not particularly comfortable here this weekend. It’s good to capitalize on that.
Ricciardo has set his sights on converting his first front-row start since the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix into a second podium finish of the year.
“Tomorrow, [it] would be nice to be back here,” Ricciardo said. “Really happy, really happy for the team as well. I think we’ve definitely made a lot of progress since Silverstone, but particularly for me since Budapest.
“The car has really come alive. It’s nice we can show that here. We expected it to work well, it is, so yeah pretty happy, and we’ll try and hang in there in the long runs tomorrow and make a race of it.”
The Singapore Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7:30am ET on Sunday.