Daniel Ricciardo says Red Bull analysed and simulated every option but ultimately couldn’t cut down the one second deficit it has to Lewis Hamilton’s pole position time for Mercedes.

After Red Bull produced a race pace stronger than Mercedes in Malaysia to see Max Verstappen win, while also being in the hunt for pole position and the race win in Singapore, Red Bull has found itself on the back-foot against Mercedes and Ferrari after being thoroughly out-qualified at Suzuka.

Ricciardo felt his team maximised its one lap performance but still found itself a whole second behind Hamilton’s new outright lap record at Suzuka of 1m 27.319s, while the Australian driver edged his team-mate Verstappen by just 0.026s for a promoted third on the grid with Valtteri Bottas taking a five-place grid drop for a gearbox change.

The Australian driver explained its experiments on set-up simulation as it aimed to balance downforce for straight-line speed to reduce its engine performance deficit all failed to close the one second gap to Mercedes.

“A second is quite a bit but every year some circuits we might surprise ourselves, and at others we are like, aahhh, okay…” Ricciardo said. “I don’t think we could have done anything better.

“Max and I tried different downforce settings but we still ended up with more or less the same lap time so I don’t think we left half a second anywhere. If we both stayed on the high downforce from yesterday then maybe we would have said we should have experimented.

“I made the decision to try and still our lap times are more or less the same. We could not have done more with what we have today relative to the gap to pole. They are just too quick.”

Ricciardo is aiming to keep clear of Verstappen and the charge of Bottas and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, who also has a five-place grid drop for a gearbox change, in order to keep in the hunt with Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel who start on the front row for the Japanese Grand Prix.

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