Daniel Ricciardo has explained how Red Bull are banking on a dry 44-lap lap race on Sunday, after the outfit qualified a respectable third and fifth in the inclement weather conditions. Although Red Bull are usually stronger this season in the wet, the Australian confirmed that the team elected to take off downforce in preparation for a dry race.
Although Red Bull entered the Belgian Grand Prix weekend expecting to be unable to challenge for a highly competitive result, coupled with their mechanical woes endured during the opening two practice sessions, the Milton Keynes-based outfit were expected to be behind not only Mercedes but also Williams in the overall pecking order.
However, when the rain arrived for the start of the third and final practice session the team elected to experiment with the various downforce levels before finally electing to remove downforce for the all-important qualifying hour later in the day. During qualifying the outfit looked respectable, with Vettel managing to finish as best of the rest to the Mercedes duo in third and Ricciardo fifth behind Alonso after making a mistake on his final run in Q3 at Blanchimont.
Although the gap between Red Bull and Mercedes was expected to be less during the session due to the persistent rain which fell throughout, the reigning Champions were unable to question the fearsome and indomitable pace of the Mercedes duo. After the end of Q3, Ricciardo explained that the team were banking on a dry race, hence their decision to remove downforce.
“An explanation for now is that we’ve banked a little bit on a drier race for tomorrow, so we’ve set the car up a bit more for that,” explained Ricciardo to the media, when questioned about the extensive gap to Mercedes. “In a nutshell we’ve taken downforce off it, so that’s hurt us today I think but in race conditions tomorrow it should be the right call and that’s why we’ve done it. Obviously we’re looking forward to the race more than the qualifying.”
Despite slight disappointment from Ricciardo after only managing to qualify fifth behind not only his team-mate but also the Ferrari of Alonso, the Australian driver firmly believes qualifying third and fifth was a good result for the team, given their decision prior to the start of the session. For the 44-lap race Ricciardo is hopeful that he can achieve a podium finish, despite many other drivers including his team-mate and the Williams duo behind set to lock into a frenetic battle for the final podium position behind the Silver Arrows.
“I think third is what I’ll aim for and if Mercedes decide to give us the chance then we’ll take more,” continued Ricciardo. “I think third is what we have to target. We seem to have Seb, Fernando [Alonso], myself, Valtteri [Bottas], there’s a few of us who can fight for that third place and I think it is going to be a good battle to watch.”
With the grid set to enter the 44-lap race with a high allocation of dry weather tyres after completing qualifying on intermediates and full wets, Ricciardo believes a two or even one stop strategy will be carried out by the teams. Either way the Australian ace will undoubtedly find himself embroiled in a frenetic battle for third, fourth or fifth with the Williams duo and especially his team-mate.
Image courtesy of Red Bull Racing