Daniel Ricciardo believes that he could have been 'best of the rest' behind the Mercedes drivers in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix had it not been for a mix-up on engine setting as he started his final flying laps.
The Australian had already shown the Red Bull Racing package to be more competitive around the streets of the Principality - something he put down to the ability ramp up the RB11's downforce levels without further penalising its under-performing Renault engine - but said that any hope of translating that performance into third place on the grid effectively expired before he had even started his final qualifying run.
"Basically, long story short, the pit-wall thought I was in a different engine mode - which I wasn't," he lamented, "So, when they told me to make the standard change, it put us out of the correct one and I could feel, starting the lap, that the car was down [on power]. I realised we were in the wrong [mode] and turned it back but made the switch too late and, before turn one, we were two-tenths down and that was that..."
Ricciardo refused to apportion blame for the slip-up, which he generously put down to operating in the 'heat of Monaco', but made no secret of his frustration at seeing a better starting slot go begging.
"It was all a bit late," he said of the call, "Normally, I was getting told to make the switch I needed to make around turn 16, and that was fine because it was giving me enough time, but this call came between the second to last and last corner, just after Rascasse. I made the switches but, getting out of the last corner, I could feel the power wasn't right. It kicked in [after another change] but I was only in sixth gear going into turn one, not even in seventh, so it was some free lap time lost.
"It's pretty frustrating as its the last place you want to have those errors. I could have been third today so that's the biggest frustration, knowing it could have been better."
Asked why Red Bull was even in position to challenge the likes of Ferrari in Monaco, the Australian admitted that the gain was probably track-specific, but remained bullish enough to suggest he could mix it with Sebastian Vettel on race day.
"We are able to bolt on max downforce here rather than trying to sacrifice a bit of balance for power," he noted, "I've always enjoyed driving around, here but I think there's a bit more potential in the car too. We struggled a little bit with tyre warm up, but I always felt, on our flying lap, that there was more to come from the tyre that we couldn't quite extract and I think we'd gain a few tenths just by getting them working in the correct window.
"I don't now if Ferrari and Mercedes are in the same boat, but it's the most competitive we've been all year - and the most comfortable. If we can get the start we need tomorrow, I'm confident we can hold [position]. If we can jump Seb, I'm confident we can have his pace..."