Red Bull Formula 1 duo Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen believe their car advantage around Monaco is enough to put them in the fight for pole position, despite rivals’ stronger engine modes.
The pair finished 1-2 in both practices in Monte Carlo on Thursday, with Ricciardo more than half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the quicker afternoon session.
Although both drivers are well aware that Ferrari and Mercedes are able to extract a lot more pace from ‘magic’ engine modes in qualifying, they think there is a chance they can still hold on at the front this time out.
Ricciardo said: “Our gap from practice to qualifying isn’t normally as big as what Ferrari and Mercedes can find.
"In quali they’ll definitely close that gap. I still feel if we can put together a really good lap we have a very good chance. That’s my job on Saturday.”
Verstappen added: “For sure they will come close to us in qualifying, with the engine modes. But I’m sure we can do better.
"It’s pretty good. I didn’t really have a lot of problems, that of course helps a lot on a street circuit. The car even comparing to last year has been a massive step forwards, in terms of how I feel in the car. It always helps.”
Ricciardo’s best lap of 1m11.841s was the fastest-ever lap around the Monaco street circuit, with a track resurfacing, car improvements and the hypersoft Pirelli tyre contributing to the speed step.
With the weekend timetable meaning F1 track action does not resume until Saturday, Ricciardo said he hoped Red Bull’s strong pace so far would leave rivals facing extra anguish over what they have to do to close the gap.
“We want everyone to sleep an extra night," he said. “I definitely expect all three big teams on Saturday to be below 1m12s. I feel we set as much of a benchmark as we could today, and it’s nice to start with these intentions.
“The intention obviously this weekend was to try and win, to try and be dominant. You know, today's good, it's a good start - we topped the session. For now we do all we can but we have a day off and then it's Saturday.
"I'm sure Ferrari, Mercedes will start to put some more pressure on us, but today we did what we could, so I'm happy.”
Additional reporting by Erwin Jaeggi and Adam Cooper