Daniel Ricciardo says Red Bull’s race pace proves it can challenge Ferrari on a regular basis in 2018, having narrowly missed out on a podium in the Australian Grand Prix. 

The Australian got within a tenth of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in qualifying but started his home race from eighth following a grid penalty for speeding under red flag conditions during Friday practice.

Ricciardo made early progress and ended up ahead of teammate Max Verstappen after the Dutchman spun while chasing down Kevin Magnussen’s Haas. He was promoted to fourth when Magnussen and Romain Grosjean retired within moments of one another following botched pitstops, before catching Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in third.

While Ricciardo was ultimately unable to find a way past Raikkonen and had to settle with fourth - his joint-best result in Melbourne - he is confident Red Bull has closed the gap in performance to its rivals, having posted the fastest lap of the race.  

“I think we’re pretty close with Ferrari and our race pace is strong, which I thought would be the case, so we just need to get a few more tenths out of qualifying and then we should be looking good. Being so close to the podium and getting fastest lap is definitely an encouraging way to start the season.”

Ricciardo was frustrated he was unable to overtake Raikkonen, despite being visibly the quicker driver, but said attempting a trademark late lunge was not worth the risk around Albert Park, known for its limited overtaking spots. 

“I’m happy with the way I drove today and we had a very fast race car. It’s not often I sit behind someone for most of the race but it’s a tight track and one of the more tricky ones for passing. 

“There were a couple of times I had a look at turn three but Kimi was wise to that and could see what I was planning. Towards the end I applied more pressure on him but he was able to up the pace as well.”

 

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