Daniel Ricciardo did not have especially high hopes for Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying, so fifth place on the grid came as a nice surprise for the Australian.
The Red Bull driver admitted to struggling through the first part of the weekend, with RBR team-mate Daniil Kvyat appearing to have the upper hand over his more experienced colleague. However, when the Russian was bumped out early in the second phase of qualifying, Red Bull hopes rested on Ricciardo's shoulders.
The Australian responded by hauling his RB12 into Q3, and then produced a flying lap that moved him ahead of both Williams, leaving them vulnerable to the countdown clock while he settled into fifth place. Opting not to run again, Ricciardo was never going to join Ferrari and Mercedes in the pole position shoot-out, but insisted that he was happy with his lot, having not expected a spot on row three.
"Up until qualifying, I was not that happy with the car this weekend," he confirmed, "It was not going particularly well but then, for qualifying, we made some changes after P3. We knew that the track would change dramatically because P3 was quite hot as opposed to yesterday, and we knew qualifying was going to be another story.
"We played it cool and thought it might come to us - and it did. We had a good rhythm from Q1 all the way through, and I was really happy with how it ended. Fifth exceeded what we expected - even just to get into Q3, I was like 'sweet!'. To be fifth, that was the best we could aim for and I was really happy."
Ricciardo explained that it was a matter of tyres - or the lack of them - rather than time that kept him in the pits instead of trying to better his position in Q3, but Red Bull was confident that Williams could not respond to the Australian's lap, giving him a chance to exploit the RB12's superior race pace.
"I thought, on one lap pace, Williams would have been comfortably in front of us this weekend, so to be pretty comfortable in front of them - at least in quali - was a good surprise," Ricciardo concluded, "I don't expect to have it easy keeping them behind [in the race] but, if we do take off and stay in fifth and keep them behind, we will stay there. Hopefully the red and silver cars…. I am sure that they will get further ahead but, hopefully, not too
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