Daniel Ricciardo brought home sixth place and eight points at an Australian Grand Prix of attrition and high tension.
Ricciardo qualified his Red Bull in P7 — but was bumped up one place on the grid when Williams driver Valtteri Bottas withdrew from the race with back pain — and spent the opening stanza sandwiched between Kimi Räikkönen behind and Felipe Nasr in front.
The Finn jumped both by his second pit stop and dropped the Australian to seventh, but Räikkönen’s retirement with a dodgy left-rear wheel returned Ricciardo to his finishing position.
“I think on paper, seeing that we finished and picked up points for sixth is a positive,” said the Australian. “But then analysing the race itself was pretty tough.
“Not taking anything away from Felipe Nasr — he did a really good job — we couldn’t really do anything about the Sauber today, and we got lapped by the two leaders as well.”
Red Bull suffered a terrible lead up to qualifying, with both drivers sitting out significant practice time with engine problems — Ricciardo suffered problems significant enough to warrant a changed engine.
Though his RB11 made it through the race, his teammate Kvyat’s car retired on the formation lap, and Ricciardo lacked pace throughout the race.
“We’ve got work to do, but we got 58 laps in, so a lot of data to work through and learn from,” Ricciardo admitted.
“I think we’ll probably have to work a bit harder for the sixth place next time, but I think we can fast-track our progress in Malaysia.”
“We know there’s a lot more potential, we’re not maximising everything for now. Unfortunately until we do, we don’t really know where we stand.”
The Australian was diplomatic in his description of the engine.
“I think it can only get better, so that’s a positive,” he said.
“I’ve been told all the [engine] maps are the same from Barcelona to here, so I guess there’s a lot of software issues that aren’t correlating. It should be exactly the same as what we had in Barcelona, but it’s not on track.”
“With the chassis, I don’t think we’ve really had the chance to push it yet, and there’s quite a lot going on that’s holding us back. When we do get it right, we’ll obviously be closer, but we’re still too far back for now.”