Ricciardo having fun despite being ‘two steps off’ in Qatar

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo is a fan of the Losail circuit after Formula 1’s first day of running at the Qatar Grand Prix despite being “two steps off” in performance.

Two 60-minute sessions opened proceedings at the new-to-F1 venue, located some 30 kilometres out of Doha.

Designed primarily for motorbikes, it offers a mixture of fast, flowing corners, and immediately struck a chord with Ricciardo.

Not long after the opening session commenced, a radio transmission from the Australian to the pit wall broadcast him beaming “this is fun.”

It’s an opinion that remained, even if his performances didn’t translate into lightning lap times.

“This track’s fun,” he said following the day’s track action.

“The initial impressions are that it’s good with it being flowing and pretty fast.

“We didn’t really progress in the second session,” he added of his performance.

“We changed the car a bit to experiment with a few things, but it was probably two steps off, so we’ve still got a bit to find there.

“Lando was more promising and we can learn a bit from that car.

“I was a bit off in the first sector so got some work to do there – but I’m not concerned, just a few things to look into tonight.

“Competitiveness-wise, I think Ferrari will be there tomorrow and Alpha Tauri looked quick. Hopefully we can find a bit more for Saturday.”

Norris ended the day with the fifth best time, almost 0.5s down on pace-setting Valtteri Bottas and 0.3s slower than the impressive Pierre Gasly who was second best.

Earlier in the day, Ferrari managed to have both its cars in the top 10, while Ricciardo ended the afternoon’s outing almost a full second off the pace.

“A good start to the weekend,” opined Norris.

“In a way, more positive than we were expecting, I think because of the type of track layout we have here.

“I think we were anticipating a few more problems and possibly difficulties than we had.

“I think there are still some weaknesses we’ve got to work on, but on the whole a solid start.

“I like the track, it’s good fun, especially being a night session as well – we haven’t had a night session in quite a while.

“It’s fast, it’s high-speed and it’s a good challenge.”

The fast, flowing nature of the Losail venue, on paper at least, should suit the McLaren more than Interlagos a week ago.

The MCL35M has shown itself to be strong in longer, faster corners, as are prevalent in Qatar.

However, improvements from Ferrari in recent races has seen the Italian squad steal third in the constructors’ championship, McLaren now trailing the Scuderia by 31.5 points with three races remaining.

Overhauling that margin and regaining the unofficial ‘best of the rest’ title is the squad’s stretch goal.

“Overall, we’re relatively happy after our first day in Qatar. The track is fast, flowing and the drivers are enjoying it,” said Andrea Stella, McLaren’s executive director of racing.

“Losail provides some challenges from a car set-up point of view, and because some of the kerbs are very aggressive.

“Some teams have experienced problems with those, us included, and we’ll try to address that overnight.

“We have plenty of analysis to do before tomorrow, but we’re looking forward to qualifying and the race.

“Several cars seem to be in good shape, but we’re eager to have a strong showing here.”

Norris was one of those cars to strike trouble, triggering an emergency switch on his car after running wide at the penultimate corner and heavily bottoming out the car.

It switched it off in the process, the Brit rolling it into pit lane where the team was able to correct the issue and send him back out on track.

Saturday’s track action begins with Free Practice 3, the final 60-minute outing before meaningful running begins with qualifying.

Cars will be on track from 22:00 AEDT tonight for practice, before qualifying commences at 01:00 AEDT on Sunday morning.

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