Daniel Ricciardo admitted that the day one timesheets did not lie as he claimed eighth place in practice for the Belgian Grand Prix, but insisted that every effort would be made to find more speed in his Red Bull RB10.
After a brief spell sorting a minor technical issue early in the afternoon session, Ricciardo plugged away, trying to close the gap, not only to pacesetter Mercedes, but also those other teams with which he has been competing this season. At the end of the two 90-minute sessions, however, the Australian also trailed Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, the two Williams of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, McLaren veteran Jenson Button and Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat.
“Maybe it was a little bit [harder than we expected], but we knew it would be difficult to break away from the middle of the field,” Ricciardo conceded, “As we've seen, Force India, McLaren and a few of the others are strong here, Toro Rosso too, so hopefully tomorrow we can find a little more speed and get ahead of them. It was a pretty standard day and, deep down, it's what we expected.”
Red Bull, with its under-powered Renault engine, was always likely to struggle on a circuit where top speed is important, but Ricciardo remained optimistic that gains could still be made.
“It's a unique track and, obviously, we run really low downforce here for the type of track it is,” he confirmed, “We try to compromise a bit with straight-line speed but, if the track picks up grip, keeps rubbering in over the weekend - and we see what the weather does - it should come a bit more to us.
“Obviously, if I wake up [on Saturday] and it's raining, I won't be too disappointed. I think we'd have more opportunity to close the gap on Mercedes and the guys in front of us with some rain, so we'll see what happens.
“In terms of straight-line speed, I don't think there is that much more we can get out of it - we're trying to find a compromise for sector two as sector one is pretty much all flat-out, so we can't bleed too much straight-line speed there and have to rely on our mechanical downforce to help us in sector two. There's probably a few more things we can tweak tomorrow in terms of aero to find a better compromise, but I think today was what it was - we didn't leave too much on the table.”
At least Ricciardo got to run, with RBR team-mate Sebastian Vettel again being sidelined due to engine problems.
“Catastrophe is a big word, but obviously it was not an ideal day for him as the engine change stopped him running this afternoon,” the Australian noted, “Hopefully, both of us will be back on track tomorrow, setting some times and getting both cars into Q3.
“I think our long run pace is better than our short run pace, but that's not a bad thing. If you have a good race car, Sundays are always more fun. It's still pretty early, but obviously Mercedes are strong and Fernando was setting some good times today, so we would like to be closer to him at least.”