Heading to Sochi, Red Bull confirmed that both of their drivers would be required to take fresh versions of their Spec B Renault engines, due to the Spec 3 not being fully refined for use at higher altitude circuits.
Heading into qualifying, Red Bull fully participated in the Q1 session and finished in P3 & P4 with Ricciardo & Verstappen respectively. Heading into Q2, and knowing their grid penalty would apply, the drivers didn’t come out for another run. However, based on their performance in Q1 where they outpaced both Ferraris, Verstappen & Ricciardo both think there’s potential for strong finishes.
“We knew before qualifying that we would have to start from the back tomorrow, but I think it has all gone better than expected so far.” explained Verstappen afterwards.
“We did a good job in Q1 which I’m happy about. The car has felt good all weekend, except for this morning, when I had some troubles, but we managed to turn it around and we are competitive again. We are closer than expected, what we lose on the straights, we can definitely make up in the corners. Even though we had good pace today, I don’t think it’s too painful for us to take the penalty here. We needed a new engine anyway, so it’s good for upcoming races to take it now.”
“The performance we had today shows again that we’ve worked very well on the set-up. From FP3 to qualifying we made some good steps forward so I’m confident about tomorrow. We just have to make sure that we have good exits out of the last few corners and keep our tyres alive, because the overtaking will not be easy on the tyres. If you follow other cars closely, it’s hard on the front tyres, so we have to consider the best approach. You never know what can happen and we won’t stop fighting, but from where I’m starting, I think the most realistic birthday present will be fifth.”
With Christian Horner explaining afterwards that both cars went into qualifying with no compromising their race setup, Daniel Ricciardo says that the team are very satisfied with how their Saturday went: “Knowing you’re taking planned penalties before the weekend makes it easier to accept that you won’t complete qualifying and then you can just focus on the race. Obviously, we are never going to know where we would have been in Q3 but we’re pretty happy with the car this weekend and we’ve performed well on a circuit that we aren’t normally that strong on. There is a lot to do tomorrow and that’s when the fun really begins for us.
There are a few of us out of position at the back of the grid, so let’s see who can fight to the front quickest and have some fun doing it. I actually hope the tyre degradation is high, like we have seen so far this weekend, that way nobody will be cruising on an easy one-stop strategy and hopefully we can provide some real entertainment. The main thing for now is to decide which tyre to start the race on. I think the temperatures are going to be higher tomorrow as well and the long run down to Turn 2 will be interesting.”