Daniel Ricciardo says he will need to get Sergio Perez early on in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, if he is to stand any chance of challenging Kimi Raikkonen and claiming the final spot on the podium.
Ricciardo will line-up fifth on the grid on Sunday in his Red Bull, but knows his hopes of fighting with the Ferrari in P3 are dependent on first clearing the Force India.
“Force India is definitely realistic,” he replied, when asked if he can go after Perez and Raikkonen in the grand prix.
“Between Force India, us and Williams it is going to be quite close. Whoever gets track position off the start will be the favourite for that battle.
"Ferrari will be a bit more tricky. If we can clear the Force India at the start, I would have a bit more confidence to try hanging with Ferrari. But if we lose too much ground at the beginning behind a Force India it will be hard to recover and catch a Ferrari.”
Ricciardo also believes that tyre management will be important on Sunday: “It will decide a lot tomorrow,” he added.
“Last year as well we had good pace in the race, and were also able to push our tyres quite hard. Like always, if you can manage – the first stint on the super soft is going to be pretty difficult. After five or six laps it is going to get quite tricky, so if you can squeeze a bit more life out of them in the first stint, then maybe that will allow you to push harder on the prime in next part of the race.”
Meanwhile, Ricciardo said he was delighted to end the year with such a decent showing in qualifying: “Yes it was, definitely, one of the better ones this year for sure. It is nice to improve each run. On every run I felt we found something, and as the sun came down it came to us a bit more as well,” he continued.
“In Q1 I was not particularly happy with the balance, and Q2 felt better and Q3 felt better again. It is good for the race that it goes a bit later into the evening, so if that is a sign of our speed then hopefully that is good for us.”
Quizzed on if he was surprised to be P5 on the grid, he added: “We knew it would be tough to beat the Williams, so beat both of them is good.
"But we have the Force India two or three tenths in front of us, so that was a surprise. Generally top five is what I was after, and I can race well from there.”