Ricciardo confident of strong showing in Melbourne
MOTORSPORT: Daniel Ricciardo has conceded Red Bull remains off the pace of Mercedes and Ferrari, but is confident the team will be competitive at his home Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne in two weeks.
After his final day in the car before the season-opening race at Albert Park, Ricciardo finished sixth in the standings, slipping down the order from day one of testing this week when he was second fastest.
The Australian took a long deep breath when asked if Red Bull would be able to match it with world champions Mercedes and Ferrari in Melbourne, before adding, "We'll see".
He admitted Red Bull was not at the level of its chief rivals at the moment, but was confident the team could get there this year.
"I wish we were sandbagging a bit more, but today we weren't quick," Ricciardo said.
"I would say day one of this week's test, we looked more competitive. I would say we were within two or three tenths off the pace, but today it was a lot more.
"I think our true pace is closer, but we are not quite at their level at the moment. We can get there, but we're not there yet.
"We certainly haven't showed Ferrari's pace yet, so if you were to put some markers down, yeah you would say Ferrari at the moment is their closest challenger, I think that's fair.
"I think we've got it somewhere, but we still need to find it."
Ricciardo completed almost two races distances at the Circuit de Catalunya, powering through 128 laps in his largest lap total of his four testing days behind the wheel.
The Perth-product, who was third in the championship last year behind Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, said he felt as prepared as he could be for the Melbourne race where he finished fourth last year.
"It was nice for me just to get the laps as well, to put myself through it physically and understand where I'm at," Ricciardo said.
"I'm happy. I feel strong. We've got a bit to learn still, but I think Melbourne will be another story again.
"I'm not going to get too nervous or whatever. We will go there and I think we will be pretty competitive.''
Teammate Max Verstappen had some engine issues on day two this week, but Ricciardo was confident there would be no troubles with the Renault power unit for Melbourne.
"I think there is still a bit to understand. For me today it was good, we did nearly 130 laps, no issues, so that was positive," Ricciardo said.
"I know Max had some issues yesterday ... perhaps they have already figured out the problems there.
"I have confidence it will get better once we get to Melbourne."
After commitments in Europe with the team, Ricciardo said he planned to head to Australia early to settle in before his home Grand Prix.
"I will certainly spend a few days there hiding somewhere before the chaos begins," he said.