A disappointed Daniel Ricciardo says Renault needs to dive into what went wrong as he was left feeling flat after qualifying seventh on the grid for tomorrow’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
A strong showing in practice earlier this weekend gave the Aussie F1 star confidence a top-five effort was on the cards but his car wasn’t as impressive as hoped and he fell away to finish well off the pace.
Watch The Formula 1 Rolex Sakhir Grand Prix 2020 Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your free trial now & start streaming instantly >
Lewis Hamilton is missing the year’s second grand prix in Bahrain after testing positive for COVID-19, but his absence didn’t hurt Mercedes. Valtteri Bottas grabbed pole position for the Silver Arrows while Hamilton’s replacement George Russell qualified second fastest, ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in third.
Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Sergio Perez (Racing Point) and Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri) were all ahead of Ricciardo as Renault was left to rue what might have been, the West Australian’s colleague Esteban Ocon qualifying 11th fastest.
“I am a bit (disappointed),” Ricciardo told Sky Sports about his qualifying effort, unsure about why he didn’t have the pace to match it with his rivals.
“Q2 was really close and actually my last sector was really quite poor so I think with a decent last corner we were looking alright.
“Just didn’t get it together with both sets (of tyres) in Q3. Don’t really know why to be honest.
“Gotta understand where it went wrong because I didn’t improve from Q2, with a mistake as well, so we’ll try and figure that one out.”
Asked by Sky commentator Natalie Pinkham why the car wasn’t as quick in qualifying as in practice, Ricciardo said: “It’s tricky. Sometimes it works. I don’t know — the car, the tyre is in a sweet spot and it comes easy in a way but then other times it’s a little bit more confusing.
“I think generally we’ve had a good car all weekend, that’s been positive so I think we’re in a good position for the race.
“Maybe we could be a couple of sports further up the grid but we’ll just have to make up for it now at the start.”
Ocon was also miffed as to what went on with his four-wheeler.
“There were times we were losing in performance and then touching the car a little bit and then it was coming back, so a few things for us to analyse there,” he told Sky.
RELATED: Son refused to use Schumacher name
RELATED: Ricciardo validated by F1 rival’s wife
After being beaten in both opening practice sessions by Russell, who was released by Williams to substitute for Hamilton, Bottas responded in familiar stoical fashion.
His late best lap in 53.377 seconds at the short, high-speed outer loop of the Bahrain International Circuit was just enough to pip Russell’s best effort, clocked on his team’s unexpected third Q3 run, by 0.026.
“It was a different situation today,” said Bottas. “I just wanted to focus on my own doing and I managed to do that. We’re in a great place as a team and it’s good to be on pole. I am happy with that.”
Russell said: “It’s been incredibly intense. There has been so much to learn and to get used to. The car felt alien to begin with — it’s a different way of driving.
“I had to un-learn what I learned at Williams and re-learn how to drive this car. I would have been happy with making Q3 after final practice … I am pleased, but I’m gutted to miss out on pole.”
It was Bottas’ 16th career pole position — three years after scoring his maiden pole at the same venue in 2017 — and inflicted Russell’s first qualifying defeat by a teammate, albeit in helping Mercedes clinch another front-row lockout.
Verstappen said he expected Russell to be a tough opponent in the race.
“I need to take advantage, but we’ll find out. It’ll be tough. It’s not going to be easy,” he said.
Pietro Fittipaldi was the first man out in Q1, the young Brazilian knowing he will start his maiden race from the back of the grid as substitute for Romain Grosjean, having taken two grid penalties for new electronic power unit parts.
In dry and mild conditions under the floodlights, the grandson of double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi focused on learning as Bottas topped the times for Mercedes ahead of Verstappen and Russell.
His Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen, who was 16th, Nicholas Latifi and his debutant Williams teammate Jack Aitken, and Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo all also missed out on Q2.
In the second mini-session, Carlos Sainz set the pace only for Pierre Gasly and then Bottas to beat him.
Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Alexander Albon was eliminated in 12th place, along with Ocon, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, Antonio Giovinazzi and McLaren’s Lando Norris.
For Norris, 15th, it was his worst qualifying of the season.
The top-10 shootout began with Bottas leading on used softs in 53.760, ahead of Russell, before Verstappen cut that to 53.591 and Leclerc grabbed second just behind him.
Sergio Perez then split the Mercedes who responded with a rapid change of tyres for another run — on new soft tyres — and a provisional front-row lockout with Bottas in front with 53.377, a tenth ahead.
Sakhir GP Qualifying — Top 10
1. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
2. George Russell, Mercedes
3. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
4. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5. Sergio Perez, Racing Point
6. Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri
7. Daniel Ricciardo, Renault
8. Carlos Sainz, McLaren
9. Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
10. Lance Stroll, Racing Point