Daniel Ricciardo believes that scoring pole position for Sunday’s Formula 1 season-opener in Australia would be “a stretch” for Red Bull following a difficult day of practice at Albert Park.
Red Bull appeared on-track with a much-revised RB13 car compared to the one that featured in pre-season testing, with a number of bodywork updates being brought in time for the Melbourne event.
Ricciardo and teammate Max Verstappen impressed to finish third and fourth in FP1, but could not carry this form through to second practice.
Ricciardo struggled for pace throughout the session, winding up fifth-fastest, while Verstappen’s running was cut short after he ran wide at Turn 12 and damaged the floor of his car.
Ricciardo revealed after the session that Red Bull had gone in the wrong direction on his setup, and that it would be taking a step back ahead of Saturday’s on-track running.
“I think this morning was promising and we tried a few things this afternoon. I think it’s fair to say that they didn’t work as much as we’d like,” Ricciardo said.
“So we’ll go back a bit and then understand what we can do better for tomorrow. I think Mercedes sure it quick, but it’s more Lewis [Hamilton] at the moment than Valtteri [Bottas].”
Hamilton finished half a second clear at the front of the pack in FP2, with Ricciardo a second off the Briton’s best lap time of 1:23.620.
While Ricciardo thinks pole is out of reach given Hamilton’s form, he is confident of battling with the second Mercedes of Bottas, who was third-fastest.
“Valtteri looks like he’s in our group or in the group with Ferrari, but I think we can be there,” Ricciardo said.
“Pole would be a stretch, but I think we can be in that next little group.”
Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 2am ET on Saturday morning.