Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Monte-Carlo, 2016

Why Ricciardo is a credible threat to Mercedes

2016 Monaco Grand Prix Thursday practice analysis

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Daniel Ricciardo kept his hopes in check after heading the second practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix by over six tenths of a second, acknowledging that Mercedes usually keep something in reserve.

“Come qualifying and race day Mercedes will turn it up but hopefully I can stay in front,” he said. “I’ll be surprised if we can keep the gap we have today in qualifying but we will see how we go.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2016
The Mercedes pair didn’t have clean laps in FP2
A look at what happened to the teams’ times from one session to the next on Thursday underlines Ricciardo’s need for caution. While he improved his lap time by 1.7 seconds the Mercedes pair, who also used ultra-soft tyres in both sessions, found no more than 0.3s.

The Mercedes drivers didn’t get especially clean runs on the new purple-coloured tyres, which explains Ricciardo’s doubt he’ll be able to maintain his advantage on Saturday. Moreover the silver team potentially has more to find from a tyre they didn’t use during testing.

However there is genuine cause for encouragement at Red Bull. Last year they were two seconds behind Mercedes at the Circuit de Catalunya and one second off in Monaco. Two weeks ago Ricciardo qualified 0.68s off the Mercedes in Barcelona. Thursday’s practice times are a further indication Ricciardo can be a credible threat to the W07s on Saturday.

Ricciardo’s qualifying form this year has been hard to fault. In China it was he, not either of the Ferraris, who grabbed the opportunity to join Nico Rosberg on the front row. In Spain he let Max Verstappen enjoy the limelight in Q1 and Q2 – then put his new team mate firmly in his place with a stunning single run in Q3.

On Thursday he flew around Monte-Carlo’s narrow confines. It’s a track Ricciardo has always been strong on: during his Formula Renault 3.5 career he won both times he raced in Monaco. His near-one second advantage over his team mate was clearly not entirely down to his upgraded new engine.

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And while Mercedes can be expected to produce more from their engine during qualifying, it won’t count for as much at a track where drivers are at only full throttle for around a third of a lap. It may even be the case that Renault’s new power unit, which is understood to be a step closer to Mercedes’ architecture in some respects, is capable of something similar.

Qualifying on pole position is more than half the battle when it comes to winning the Monaco Grand Prix. And it looks like for once there is more than just the two Mercedes in that fight.

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

Complete practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’16.3081’14.60769
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’15.5371’15.21367
3Nico RosbergMercedes1’15.6381’15.50687
4Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’16.3711’15.57172
5Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Ferrari1’16.4261’15.81590
6Sebastian VettelFerrari1’15.9561’16.26966
7Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Ferrari1’17.1301’15.98193
8Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’16.9121’16.04062
9Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’16.6971’16.12076
10Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Honda1’17.9201’16.32572
11Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’16.5601’16.48783
12Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’17.8381’16.72370
13Esteban GutierrezHaas-Ferrari1’17.9091’16.78265
14Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1’17.5621’16.84991
15Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’17.5991’16.87456
16Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’18.7461’17.28652
17Kevin MagnussenRenault1’18.2741’17.53063
18Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’18.3011’17.56272
19Jolyon PalmerRenault1’18.8711’17.76146
20Felipe NasrSauber-Ferrari1’18.1871’17.99978
21Rio HaryantoManor-Mercedes1’20.5281’18.64738
22Pascal WehrleinManor-Mercedes1’20.8681’18.81471

2016 Monaco Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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28 comments on “Why Ricciardo is a credible threat to Mercedes”

  1. Early on last year I thought the Ferraris might take the fight to Mercedes, so I’ll keep my optimism in check… but I did say when the cars were launched that the Red Bull looked like a car that meant business, so here’s fingers crossed for a great rest of the season.

  2. I strongly believe Both Max and Ricciardo have a shot at pole, but I think Mercedes will find a gap and undercut them. If only one Red Bull starts ahead of the Mercedes boys I predict Mercedes to still win the race.

    1. From I have seen, it is very difficult to beat RB on strategies. I they have one guy leading, I expect them to sacrifice the second one to ensure victory.

      1. A good strategy is indeed important to win ;)
        But sacrificing is not part of that deal. You gamble on two different strategy’s knowing one of them will work. It’s the track , the degradation and the traffic that dictates this options.
        As did Ferrari (and 7 other teams running a three stop strategy but no 2 stopper)

        1. By that I mean answer to your opponent strategy to hedge a risk. More often than not it benefits the team not the driver.

    2. Hmmm @xtwl I see Ricciardo challenging for pole but I reckon Max has more to do tuning into the car. I’m giving Max a year or even two to hit top speed.

      Then if DR gets pole I don’t see how a Merc is going to get past him unless there’s an incident. The SS runners are only something like 1.5s slower and Ricci can take it steady and prevent a gap opening that the Mercs could slot into. He just has to run 20 laps or whatever until the US are giving up and then the Mercs’ free laps won’t be quick enough to jump him.

      Still there is an incident more often than not, as we know…

  3. I think only Ricciardo has shot at pole against Mercedes. Max doesn’t sound too comfortable yet with his car. To go to the limit at Monaco you need 100% trust in the car, I believe.

    Encouraging part for RBR is that the upgrade seems to give something extra already at Monaco. That will be even bigger on other tracks.

    1. Hmmm…let’s consider Max virtually matched DR in FP1, and then virtually matched Nico in FP2, so for a guy who is understandably not yet comfortable in his car, in only his second race weekend with it, and the ‘lesser’ engine, tells me this is going to be a great rivalry at RBR. But their first responsibility imho is to advance the team together, in a healthy way, which I believe they will do.

      I still believe it will be a Merc 1-2 on the grid though.

      1. Qualifying has not been Max’s strongest point yet. He and Sainz were even (maybe Sainz is just very good at it). But qualifying is experience they say. And Max has not that overall experience in that. So he will get better.

        Racing wise I believe Max has more qualities then Daniel. Both have courage so they are both exciting.

        F1 has become more exciting.

        1. “F1 has become more exciting.”
          I agree!

        2. Sainz/Verstappen qualifying
          2015 10-9 +1 Sainz
          2016 1-3 +2 Verstappen.

          1. from what i remember Sainz was better in the begin of the last season. Max started catching up later in the season.

  4. I am not so sold on Ricciardo’s form yet. Qualifying is 2 days after practice here, unlike other tracks. Lot more factors that can come and affect everyone. Ricciardo himself seems very aggressive on and off track both. Still hankering about the strategy call in a press interview almost 12 days after the race, giving credit to ‘confidence’ and not his car or his engine yesterday.. Signs of a man who is passionate, not the usual cool as a cucumber Daniel.

    1. I don’t think Ricciardo is a driver who has to be cool to deliver his best. When he seems to have a fire lit under him he still delivers. This year has been a lot like watching him in 2014, he has a sniff of opportunity and he’s absolutely on it. China and Spain were unlucky with punctures and Russia with the incident caused by his team mate, but he’s been flawless in qualifying and delivered controlled aggression in the races to fight for whatever position he can get his car in.

      I’m still expecting him on the second row for Sunday, but he will be hounding the Mercedes the entire race, any tactical blunders and I’ve every confidence he’ll seize the chance.

    2. Yeah fair comment, as long as he doesn’t try to ‘make up for the last race’ with some bonzai move. Not that I think he will, but I think it will be good for him to put Spain behind him, and just revel in he fact that he has the ability, and more and more the car, to show some stuff going forward. He’s not going to win the WDC but he can still do some great stuff, and that starts with minimizing distractions, but I’m sure he doesn’t need to be told that, or if he does there are people on the team for that.

      The team made a decision that pretty much only in hindsight was wrong, so time to move on from that. If he is bitter that it was Max that took the win, and he would have been ‘fine’ with the strategy call if someone other than Max won, then he’s not doing himself any service. But I predict it will be fine.

      1. I am more afraid of a Bonzai move from Kvyat. Hopefully he will be behind the Ferrari’s.

        1. Lol ya but I guess the other side of the coin for DK is that he can ill afford to be taking anyone out anymore. He has the difficult task, not that it is any different for any driver, to show his stuff but cleanly. He’s under the microscope.

        2. I would be just as worried about the bonzai move from Max this weekend. He’s beaten all targets so far in his career and done exceptionally well. However it gets more competitive the closer you get to the top. The pressure also gets higher and pressure makes for mistakes. Monaco is the worst place to make mistakes.

          Dan’s strength has always been his qualifying. He has smashed all before him in the past. That is demoralising for a team mate even if he finishes better. Look at where Kvyat is right now and he was soundly beaten by Ricciardo in qualifying in the past, but is well in front of Sainz and well up the order. Kvyat performing well piles more pressure on Verstappen. If Kvyat beats Sainz by a good margin in qualifying and Ricciardo beats Max by a good margin as well, it is sure to piles the pressure on Max. He may have felt he was better than Sainz, but if Kvyat beats Sainz, then there must be a seed of doubt asking if both he and Sainz aren’t good enough. Pressure makes some drivers rise and others fail.

          Max is good for sure, but he is young and this is the first time he has probably ever come up against a team mate that is at lest as good as he is. Possibly better than him. Confidence is easy when you beat people easy, but it is harder to maintain when you are beaten. It’s taken Hamilton years to get true confidence in his abilities. Remember him tweating Buttons data not that long ago to prove he wasn’t that bad. Nothing against Hamilton here, just trying to prove a point that at the top, it is pointy and that pressure causes doubt.

          1. Please mind the fact that it isn’t up to Max to beat Ricciardo for the coming races, he seriously lack’s expierence with the car. He keeps on saying that in every interview, even at Spain, in the race and after testing he learned a lot. Monaco is a complete different circuit, it will be hard to get to the limit of the car with this less expierence.

            Spain wasn;t luck, it was talent what got him to the podium no matter the what if’s.
            Max talent is to get the best out of the tyres and overtaking.

            Last thing to remind from Monaco last year, it was Max who crashed… Sainz almost did as well, bot Alonso and Ricciardo touched other drivers as well.

          2. I think Ricci is in danger of hitting the wall at Q. He seems to be hyped up.

  5. Black n Blue
    27th May 2016, 13:13

    Weren’t Ferrari within a tenth or two of Mercedes in Barcelona practice? What happened to that gap? Mercedes toys with us every race weekend. They make it look like they have strong competition to generate self-indulgent PR before they turn up the engine mode, drain the fuel tank and then proceed to knock it out of the park on Saturday afternoon.

    1. I suppose it could be self-indulgent PR, or maybe they just see no need to crank things up early and risk unreliability given all the conservation in F1 these days. The other teams can afford this less and must keep pushing harder to get to where Merc are, not that Merc aren’t pushing hard to stay ahead though. They can just afford to do it differently.

      1. For sure. But, there is only set ammount of pace you can gain, by turning up the engines in Monaco.

        Martin Brundle’s observation is, that RBR was easy fastest around final sector. Making that world class aero work on the least engine influenced circuit just might pay dividends…

        But also Mercedes are fastest here for a good few years now.

  6. I hope so, I lumped some money on him at 10/1 before the practice sessions.

  7. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    27th May 2016, 18:12

    It almost doesn’t matter. None of the plethora of good news stories in F1 matter when the “human-interest” journos are in town. The fans that are demented enough to watch every scrap of F1 broadcast available are going to have to sit through upwards of an hour of Simon Lazenby gormlessly trying to breathe life into the crashgate that was never that gate-ish; much to the dismay of Sky and the tabloids. Let’s see if Lazenby can summon up enough enthusiasm to discuss the Verstappen miracle, or the brilliantly competitive race we have in store, rather than getting all misty eyed about a lack of inter-team fisticuffs.

    His presenting style is forced and manufactured, and his enthusiasm peaks when he is promoting other sports or how Game of Thrones is available on demand; and this is a job millions of fans across the world would pay to do.

  8. If you are listening to what Max is saying in interviews it strikes me that he has no doubt. He is so calm and his body language tells me he is so convinced that he is the best on the grid. Thrue leaders/Champions you regonize at once. Why i don’t know but thats how it work. So how fast DR maybe is on thursday, in the long term Max will distroy him because Max knows he is best. Simple as that. So drive DR drive ir the Devil is on your tail, Max will get you :-)

  9. Redbull looks like can impove a lot of.

  10. I highly doubt Mercedes will be any better than 1:14,500.

    Im telling you, that Renault Engine has found some serious acceleration.

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