Daniel Ricciardo says it’s painful to see the pace gap between Red Bull and Mercedes during qualifying having felt he extracted the maximum performance from his RB14.

Ricciardo has qualified sixth for the Spanish Grand Prix with a 1m 16.818s – just 0.002s off of teammate Max Verstappen – but saw a seventh-tenths gap form between Red Bull and pole-sitting Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes.

The Australian driver, whose Red Bull contract expires at the end of the season, says his frustrations and the qualifying deficit were compounded having produced a lap he felt was towards the ultimate performance from his Red Bull.

“I was a little bit down after qualifying because I didn’t think the car felt too bad,” Ricciardo said. “We did three 16.8s with different tyres and settings. That seemed like the limit of the car. I didn’t think it felt that bad, so then to kind of see the 16.1, that hurt a little bit.

“It’d be different if the car was like a handful and not going too well, but it didn’t feel too bad. We obviously don’t quite have the qualifying pace at the moment.”

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Ricciardo feels the biggest performance drop is in Red Bull’s usual weaknesses with its Renault power units compared to Mercedes and Ferrari.

“I’m sure we are losing a bit out on the straight,” he said. “My sector three was quickest from what I saw, so that is encouraging for Monaco. But then it was still a bit of power in sector two, but I don’t think we were that strong in sector two. Sector one is pretty much all power now that turns two and three are full power.

“Yesterday wasn’t bad, we did improve it, but there is still a bit more to get out of it but not kind of seventh-tenths. Even if I forget Lewis’ time, Seb still did a 16.3, so we are still half a second from that.

“If we’ve got the race pace maybe that is just how it is at the moment. Maybe we don’t have a great qualifying package at the moment and they are still going to be fast in the race. So I don’t think we are going to be the best. I am not convinced yet.”

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