Daniel Ricciardo won’t let himself become disheartened after losing his 100 per cent qualifying record against his teammates this season.
Ricciardo had outqualified Daniil Kvyat and, from the Spanish Grand Prix, Max Verstappen on every occasion until the British Grand Prix, where 18-year-old Verstappen pipped his senior teammate by 0.3 seconds to lock out the second row of the grid for Red Bull Racing.
“I wanted a perfect season with qualifying, so I’m a little pissed off with that,” said Ricciardo, before joking adding “I’ll just stab someone tomorrow!”
Sector times show Ricciardo lost more than a tenth against Verstappen in the final sector and a little less in sector one.
“Most of it was in the last chicane,” reflected Ricciardo. “I lost more than I should have through there.
“It was mainly the low speed. High speed we were looking pretty good. The high-speed corners are fun here, the low speed ones are a bit of a pain in the arse.”
It’s the first major blow landed by Verstappen on Ricciardo in a gently escalating battle for supremacy inside Red Bull Racing.
The Dutchman’s win on debut with the team in Spain was easy enough to file under ‘strategic misfortune’ for Ricciardo, who would likely have won the grand prix had the team not given him what transpired to be the slower of the strategic options.
Verstappen again beat Ricciardo on points in Canada, but only after Nico Rosberg forced the Australian off the racing line as he hastily rejoined the track he had been pushed from by Lewis Hamilton.
In Austria Verstappen hustled past Ricciardo on lap two, finishing second and 25 seconds ahead of Ricciardo in fifth — a resounding intra-team victory in a straight fight.
“I got caught out a bit into turn eight last weekend,” said Ricciardo. “Obviously even if there were some small reasons [for it], it’s still frustrating, and I obviously want to take some accountability for that.
“You should learn from your mistakes, so tomorrow I don’t plan on [him] getting passed, and I’ll be doing the overtaking.”
Contractual nuances aside, part of the reason Red Bull promoted Verstappen to its senior team was to keep Ricciardo, himself regarded as a potential world champion, on his toes, and there is little doubt the pair are digging deep within themselves to beat each other.
“With myself obviously he’s pushing. He’s doing really well, and I obviously want to try and keep on top of it. I’m sure it’s bringing out a bit more in both of us.
“He has, I think, just hit puberty. I don’t know what that means, if he’s going to keep getting better or if the degradation will start, but we’ll see. It depends on if he lets them grow out or if he clips!
“The last couple of races he’s had a bit better race pace through various stints, but I think roles are reversed now — he’s quicker today, so hopefully I’m quicker tomorrow. I think I can be … so tomorrow expect a fight.”
Ricciardo’s British Grand Prix will be more than a straight fight with Verstappen, however. Despite what appeared to be a significant long-run pace advantage over the Ferrari cars based on Friday times, the Australian is expecting Kimi Räikkönen, who starts from fifth, and Sebastian Vettel, who starts from P11 due to a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, to present credible threats.
“It’s nice to get in front of them here. I thought it’d be within a tenth or something, but it looks like we’ve got a couple of tenths or more on them, so that’s nice.
“We’ve seen a few races this year where we looked like we’d come out on top, then they’ll come out at the next race. I think it’s probably going to be like this for the whole year — we’ll have out moments and they’ll have theirs.
“I think tomorrow will be pretty close with all four of us. My plan is to get into third and wave goodbye.”