Daniel Ricciardo has admitted team-mate Sebastian Vettel's technical problems on the opening day of the Spanish Grand Prix will have set Red Bull Racing back.
The German stopped on track after just four laps of Friday morning practice, and was subsequently found to have suffered a short in the electrics which led to the wiring loom burning out. With insufficient time to effect repairs before FP2, Vettel was forced to sit out the rest of the day, leaving Ricciardo as the team's only runner for much of the day.
With Barcelona traditionally witnessing the introduction of teams' first major upgrades, having two functioning cars is of vital importance, and Ricciardo conceded that RBR would have suffered by only having his data stream to rely on.
“It doesn't make it any easier for us,” he acknowledged, “With two cars, you get twice the amount of data and twice the amount of feedback from the drivers. Obviously, for Seb, it puts him on the back foot but it's unfortunate not only for him but as a team, as we only learned half as much as we could have today. Short runs, long runs, obviously everyone is looking at what I've done and we have no-one to compare it to. Having had a few updates this weekend it would have been nice to have had feedback from both cars.”
Despite carrying the load, Ricciardo ended the day third overall on the timesheets, albeit a full second of Lewis Hamilton's front-running pace in the Mercedes.
“It's not bad, but the gap to the Mercedes is still bigger than we'd like, so we've got to keep working at it,” the Australian confirmed, “I think, in the last couple of races, we've probably been third best, so it's nice not to have gone backwards, but we'd still like to close the gap to Mercedes and they're still a bit far in front.
“Tonight, hopefully, we'll find a bit more and give them some more pressure in equal conditions in qualifying tomorrow.
“As a team, we struggled to make that big step forward, but my afternoon run went pretty good - both the long and short runs - and we learnt quite a lot. Fortunately, at least one of us was running well and we'll try and get as much information from that as possible. I think we're making progress but, unfortunately, Mercedes doesn't seem to be slowing down.”
Although the gap to Mercedes was bigger on the medium compound Pirelli, Ricciardo was happy with the number of laps he managed to complete on the option tyre.
“I did a very long stint on the option - maybe around 20-25 laps - and we didn't expect to go that long,” he reported, “By the end, the rear tyres were pretty much on the edge but it was good fun - a little bit of rally car driving!
“The short run on the prime was not to bad, maybe half a second off the Mercedes, which was an improvement on the morning, but the option wasn't as happy and we dropped back to about a second again. However, I think we did well to manage that long on the tyres so we're okay.”
Asked whether his recent results had made it easier to carry the load as the lone Red Bull running in practice, Ricciardo believed that he was earning greater respect from the world champions.
“It's probably a natural progression from their side although, of course, they respected me by signing me last year,” he pointed out, “I think, with the results I've shown, there's probably a bit more respect that I've earned, so it's good. When I give feedback now, not only do I feel more comfortable, but I feel the team is taking my feedback as seriously as it needs to be taken, and is moving on and taking action from that.”