Daniel Ricciardo says Red Bull can take heart from its performance during qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix after being “frustratingly close” to Formula 1 rivals Ferrari and Mercedes. 

Max Verstappen, who crashed out of Q1 and will start 15th in Bahrain, was the best-placed Red Bull driver in qualifying for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix but trailed Lewis Hamilton by more than 0.7s. 

Red Bull appeared to close the gap to its rivals in Sakhir, as Ricciardo ended up fifth and just 0.440s off poleman Sebastian Vettel. Despite being frustrated he was unable to extract more from his final Q3 run, Ricciardo was pleased to see the gaps shrink in qualifying. 

“It was closer than expected so far as the gap to pole was four-tenths which is encouraging but still frustrating to be at the tail end of that,” Ricciardo said. 

“In the lap there were bits and pieces, a tenth left on the table but I don’t think there was more than that to get myself further up the grid. 

“Lewis had a couple of tenths still on me. Frustratingly-close but encouragingly that there are no big gaps and seeing the top five within four tenths is cool for F1.”

The Australian, who will start Sunday’s race from fourth on the grid with Lewis Hamilton set to drop five places for changing his gearbox, is confident Red Bull can challenge Ferrari for victory after demonstrating strong race pace throughout practice at the Bahrain International Circuit. 

“Yesterday our race pace didn’t look bad in second practice but it wasn’t as good as it was in FP1 or what it is now so it is encouraging to know that I believe our car will be better than it was yesterday. So hopefully that puts us in the fight.”

When asked if he feels Red Bull can match Ferrari on long runs, Ricciardo replied: “I’m hopeful. It is not a long shot and I think it is in reach so I am looking forward to that so hopefully in 24 hours time we can do a pretty cool interview after the race.”

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