Daniel Ricciardo believes Lewis Hamilton's pace on the harder tyres means he is the man to beat this weekend at the Canadian GP.
Mercedes opted to bring fewer sets of the Hypersoft compound than the rest and in practice on Friday would only use the Ultra and Supersoft rubber, setting the fourth best time in the process.
However, with a gap of less than six-tenths to pacesetter Max Verstappen, the Monaco race winner believes the additional grip from the pink-striped tyre will be enough to bring the world champion into play.
“I would say that Mercedes’ pace was really fast today,” Ricciardo told reporters in Montreal. “Even on the harder tyre, they were still doing pretty good lap times.
“I think they’ll be at this stage hard to beat, but I think we can still improve the car a lot, do more laps, learn a bit more and I think we’ll be okay.
“I guess the fight will be with Ferrari, too early to really know, but I’m sure Mercedes will be really fast tomorrow afternoon.”
Verstappen agreed with the Australian, despite setting the best time of the day, a 1m12.198s.
“It was a good start to the weekend, the car did everything it should do, straight away the set-up was right,” the Dutchman said.
“In terms of pole position, I think Mercedes will be very strong again. Our car works well, but whether that will be enough in Q3, I don’t know.”
A big question mark over Ricciardo going into the weekend was whether his engine would make it through after Red Bull opted against installing new components which would have resulted in a grid penalty.
After not sounding particularly clear in the morning, the 28-year-old lost about an hour in the afternoon as his mechanics tried to fix what was causing that problem but Daniel remains confident.
“We had what looked like an electrical problem. We had some problems this morning, they tried to fix it during lunch, but it didn’t improve, so yeah, we had to try and fix that,” he explained.
“We have the B-spec engine this weekend, the upgrade, and I think just configuring a few things on that, we’re not necessarily aligned, so we just had to go through a little bit of trial and error.
“A little bit obviously frustrating not to get many laps, but the problem doesn’t seem dramatic.”
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