Daniel Ricciardo says he was surprised Red Bull struggled so much during qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Although Ricciardo qualified fifth - his target after Friday practice - he faced a fight to get in to Q3 and team-mate Sebastian Vettel dropped out in the second part of qualifying. Reflecting on the tough afternoon, Ricciardo conceded that a number of Red Bull's rivals appear to have made more progress since Canada.

"We're a bit surprised," Ricciardo said. "We didn't expect to be fighting that hard to try and get top five, let alone to make it through to Q3. I'm not really sure why ... credit to the other teams, they've obviously found some pace and the second and third sector - the few fast corners where we thought we'd have a little bit of an edge - they seemed to be pretty much on to us.

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"I think they've found a little bit and we're still trying to find that little bit extra to stay in front, but they seem to have caught up this weekend."

On the gap to Vettel, Ricciardo said there were no obvious areas he was gaining time but felt more comfortable in the high-speed corners.

"It was probably mostly in the second sector through the quicker stuff, Turns 5 and 6, I think there was a little bit there which I gained. But it's half a tenth here and half a tenth there, little bits and pieces, not really one standout corner. I'd say that's probably an area where I felt a little bit more comfortable in the middle of the track there."

And Ricciardo suggested that Vettel's struggles relative to his team-mate could have been down to his reliance on rear-end stability in previous seasons.

"If anything I think it's fair to say he was very, very comfortable with his car the last few years and maybe the extra rear downforce they had was his preferred way of driving. For me, maybe I was coming from something probably a little more squiggly. I don't know, he's a four-time champ and it's not like he's still struggling with the car.

"Obviously it's different but I think he's adapted by now. We're both trying to find a little bit more and I've found a little bit more more often."