Despite falling away from his Friday position as 'best of the rest' behind the two Mercedes, Daniel Ricciardo insisted that the Red Bull team was still content with sixth on the grid for the Belgian Grand Prix.
The Australian had twice posted top three times on the opening day, but dropped back in FP3 and then found himself shuffled down to the third row as Ferrari and Williams ramped up their qualifying efforts. Although he will gain a spot when Romain Grosjean's surprising fourth-fastest result is tempered by a penalty, Ricciardo insisted that, in the circumstances, there was nothing to be ashamed about.
“We are pretty close,” he said, pointing to the one-tenth difference between third-placed Valtteri Bottas and himself, “We obviously did not expect too much, and knew yesterday that it looked a bit better than it probably was.
“We knew Williams and others would come forward today so to be sixth and pretty close to third, we are relatively pleased. We see how much [speed] we bleed on the straights, so to be able to carry that speed through sector two and then keep a good time, we are relatively happy with the day.”
Ricciardo was able to attribute some of his loss to an overnight change of rear wing which, while improving grip, robbed his RB11 of around 5kph in straight-line pace.
“I really wanted to make the Monza wing work because it is nice being fast on the straights but, when we put on the Spa wing - the one Daniil [Kvyat] had for today - it did feel better and I got a lot more grip into sector two. So, in hindsight, we did the right thing.
“Everyone is clipping the power and charging and all these things, and I don't know if we are better or not than Mercedes. From what I understand, the faster you go, the more you're able to charge so, theoretically, Mercedes should have less problems than us, but I'm not sure to be honest. But, for this circuit, it doesn't change much. The amount of clipping we have feels the same as other circuits we go to.”
With the two Mercedes nearly a second clear of the field, Ricciardo conceded that the Italian Grand Prix would be even tougher for the Renault runners, but preferred not to think too much about it with Spa still to run.
“These are things we know, I guess,” he acknowledged, “Monza is going to be trickier than it is here, and we'll probably have to do a penalty there as well, but we'll see. We'll cross that bridge when it comes.
“At least, Monza is a track that you can pass on - even if you're down on power, you get such a big slipstream that you can pass. We got the top speed last year, so it shows what a good slipstream can do!”