Daniel Ricciardo says Red Bull has hit its expectations despite struggling for grip on the evolving Mexican Grand Prix circuit but has ruled out a fight at the front in dry conditions.
The Australian driver put his Red Bull fifth on the grid for the Mexican Grand Prix and feels he has a slight advantage on his team-mate Daniil Kvyat ahead of him in fourth as he blasts off the start grid on the clean racing line.
Overall, Ricciardo says he wasn't totally satisfied with the results but felt it was made tougher by the changing grip levels on the new Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez track surface as he was unable to find consistency during qualifying.
“Each lap was a bit different and we struggled with grip throughout qualifying and we tried to chase it with a few things here and there with some tools in the car like the differential and front wing,” Ricciardo said. “Q3 got a little bit better but I was never really content with the session.
“This track, this surface, has that in it and has a high possibility to struggle and make mistakes that we don't really understand because even if you get a little bit off line it is dirty and slippery and you lose the rear.”
Assessing his team's fortunes compared to its rivals he feels Red Bull is where it expected to be but the gap between them and Mercedes is bigger than envisaged.
“I didn't think we'd be a tenth of a second off of Mercedes in qualifying and that the gap would drift a little bit but I didn't think it would drift that much so I think we chasing ourselves in qualifying. We were quite confused on what lap to push on and what lap not to push on.”
Ricciardo believes a one-stop strategy could be the key to success at the Mexican Grand Prix but without the external influences of rain or safety car periods he hasn't rated his chances of victory very high.
“I think we can be closer in the race but if it is dry not close enough to battle Mercedes,” he said. “Hopefully be there or there about with Ferrari and keep Williams behind. Ferrari will have pretty good race pace so maybe that will be the car to challenge Mercedes. For us realistically it will be difficult to match those guys in the dry but anything can happen.”