Ricciardo sees progress in Baku qualifying performance

Daniel Ricciardo

While Daniel Ricciardo is not celebrating the fact he qualified 12th for the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, he is pleased with the progress it seems to indicate.

The Australian managed a 1:43.574s in Qualifying 2, just under two tenths off the pace of his McLaren team-mate, Lando Norris, who will line up 11th.

After a tough run of races and intense media speculation in recent weeks, it’s a small step in the right direction for the man who won on the streets of Baku in 2017.

“It’s not obviously a position that I’m going to celebrate or anything like that, but I think it’s really about the progress we made this weekend,” Ricciardo said after qualifying.

“We obviously put some work in in the week, and in the sim, and tried a few things, and I think we’ve been able to execute some of that on track, which has been positive.”

A key issue Ricciardo has battled has been feeling at one with the car and having the confidence to push it over a single lap.

The reduced deficit to Norris suggests some of that has started to now flow, even if he’s not yet completely comfortable.

“Getting close to the feeling, or I think what we’re striving for with the car,” the 32-year-old said.

“Relative to two weeks ago and how I felt after the Saturday there, it’s certainly a better position, and I think probably just generally a better understanding of where we are and what we need to move forward.

“So I’ll take those positives.”

Both Ricciardo and Norris had been further up the field during Free Practice 3, the ending the final 60-minute hit out pair in fifth and sixth – Norris the faster of the two by just 0.058s.

To start outside of the top 10 is therefore disappointing for the Australian who had hoped for more.

“Probably my thoughts were a little higher,” Ricciardo admitted of his expectations given the Free Practice 3 pace.

“Just kind of leaning on the car as the track cools and all of that in the qualifying session, probably felt we’d find a little bit more than maybe some others.

“But it felt like they made a bigger step than us, so we’ll have a look at that for the race.

“We’re a little weak in Sector 3, but I think anything can happen around here, and if we stay in the fight – I think you just got to be there ‘til the end.”

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix begins at 21:00 AEST on Sunday, with Charles Leclerc lining up on pole.

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