Ricciardo happy in 15th after ‘ugly’ Las Vegas practice

Daniel Ricciardo was happy to qualifying 15th after an 'ugly' practice session in Las Vegas. Image: Coates / XPB Images

Daniel Ricciardo was happy to qualify 15th after an ‘ugly’ practice session in Las Vegas. Image: Coates / XPB Images

Daniel Ricciardo was pleased to have progressed into Qualifying 2 for the Las Vegas Grand Prix after a final practice session he described as “ugly.”

Ricciardo ended the final hour of practice 20th and last with a best lap almost 3.7 seconds off that of pace-setter George Russell.

The Australian had been similarly positioned following the extended Free Practice 2, held in the small hours of Friday morning when he was 19th best and 2.4 seconds away from the top of the timesheets.

To progress beyond the first phase of the knockout qualifying format was, therefore, a win of sorts, especially given team-mate Yuki Tsunoda qualified slowest.

“Coming into the weekend, certainly would have envisaged more, but after last night and then this morning – P2 and P3 – we were quite aware that this was proving difficult for us,” Ricciardo explained.

“Ultimately, just this low grip surface, we struggle a bit more to just get the most out of the tyre on one lap.

“So that’s where we struggled and I think the first sector as well shows there where… second and third sector is a little more competitive but first sector,  we’re miles back.

“Just getting that tyre working was tricky for us. We were looking pretty ugly this morning, well, FP3 I’ll just that because I don’t know what time of the day it is!

“So we did make some pretty good improvements for quali, and actually getting into Q2, I had a smile on my face,” he continued.

“I know it’s only P15, and of course we want more, but we definitely made our car better and that obviously gives us a bit more of a smile for the race that we can have a bit better long run pace.”

While Scuderia AlphaTauri battled to escape Qualifying 1, constructors’ championship rivals Williams had two cars progress to Qualifying 3, while Haas has Kevin Magnussen in ninth.

Ricciardo hopes, however, that their strong single-lap pace will turn into a weakness come the race.

The Scuderia AlphaTauri AT04 is more gentle on its tyres, necessitating a build lap on top of an out-lap during qualifying.

“Even then, we still don’t feel like we’re probably quite ready for the first sector,” Ricciardo noted.

“And then on the contrary, we know that’s where Haas is actually really strong is getting the tyre to switch on really quickly and extracting grip in a short amount of time.

“But then, typically, that’s where their races sometimes fall away from them.

“So we knew after doing a few laps yesterday that this surface was really going to suit them.”

Williams, however, looks capable of a stronger result, leading Ricciardo to suggest the Grove is now in the box seat when it comes to sealing seventh in the constructors’ championship.

Scuderia AlphaTauri sits eighth, seven points down on Williams and five clear of Alfa Romeo Sauber. Haas foots the table on 12 points.

“I came into the weekend thinking Williams was certainly going to be a little more competitive than the last few weeks,” Ricciardo admitted.

“They’re definitely in the hot seat tomorrow, but who knows what’s going to happen.

“I know there’s [tyre] graining, and it should be a one-stop, but probably won’t be if there’s graining and things like this.

“Obviously, they open the track again tonight and the public and all that, so that’s probably going to be a dirty track against at the start of the race, which will exaggerate some of those tyre issues.

“So, if you just get it – it’s not obviously luck – but if you just get a little luckier than the others, the way the tyres perform and behave, then it can have a massive swing in the race.”

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