Ricciardo surprised by McLaren pace

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo admits he found McLaren-Honda’s free practice pace “surprising” after Jenson Button clocked the third fastest time in FP2 for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

After finishing a solid fourth in the early afternoon session, the Australian slipped down to a quiet ninth in the night running as teams switched their focus to qualifying runs on Pirelli’s red-marked supersoft tyre.

Ricciardo was nearly sixth tenths adrift of Button’s personal best on a track that features four long straights and where Honda was still expected to suffer from a horsepower deficit.

“Jenson’s pace was surprising, not him the team [McLaren] had surprising pace,” the Red Bull man said.

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“Even if Jenson was on 5 kilos of fuel it was still a pretty decent lap time, so we will see [on Saturday]. On the long runs we should have them covered. That is only going by what we learned in Melbourne. Here it is a little bit hazy.”

While his first free practice went smoothly, Ricciardo explains that his second session was compromised early on when he had a bad lock up on the soft tyre. This ended up penalising him down the road, especially with two virtual safety cars being deployed in the closing stages of FP2.

Still, the 26-year-old remains confident Red Bull can build on the solid foundations laid in Australia and says he will rely on team-mate Daniil Kvyat to make up for lost ground.

“We missed quite a lot of high fuel running, and then the high fuel running we did get with the option was interrupted with all those VSC, so missed out on a bit of information. But Danny had a decent run so we will look at what he did and lean on that.

“Short runs will be similar to Melbourne – we are on the cusp of Q3. But the race we will be a little bit better on the tyres.

“Wherever we qualify I believe that we will have better race pace than that position.”

REPORT: Rosberg heads Hamilton and Button in FP2

AS IT HAPPENED: Bahrain Grand Prix FP2

Romain Grosjean’s exclusive F1i column – Bahrain

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