Red Bull had been playing down their chances of a good result this weekend, but some encouraging running especially in the morning put them in a better position than expected.
Surprisingly in FP1 Riccairdo was the closest challenger to the dominating Mercedes, with the Australian faster than his highly rated teammate in both sessions. With him third in the first free practice session, he fell back to fifth in second.
Ricciardo said after practice, “We looked pretty strong this morning and then we tried a few things this afternoon but I don’t think they worked in our favour.
“I’d like to learn a bit more from this afternoon’s session and then if we could pull all of that together with the strength of this morning I’ll be happy.
“Mercedes sure is quick but it’s more Lewis at the moment than Valtteri, who looks like he’s more in the group of Ferrari. I think we can be there as well. Pole might be a stretch but I think we can be in that next little group with the right set-up and the right lap in quali.
“If Lewis does the perfect lap then that’ll be a challenge to take the pole away from him but we’re not too far off. You certainly feel more traction with the new tyres.”
Talking about the expectations with the new aero regulations providing faster lap times, he was a little disappointed.
“I thought the times would have been quicker though; this morning I felt a big chunk of grip but I was expecting low twenties. There is still time to improve tomorrow. I think the wind changes so that’ll make a quicker lap time but the traction is nice.
“It felt awesome to be out on the track this morning, I just felt I was back in my happy place and it was cool to already see so many fans on a Friday. It’s also a circuit I enjoy because it’s a fun layout. I think we can have a very good weekend from here.”