Ricciardo expecting 'strategic' qualifying session as teams battle soft tyre degradation
Daniel Ricciardo was anticipating a “close” Mexican Grand Prix qualifying battle after the end of the first day's running at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez – while he also hinted at the chance of some Q3-dodging gamesmanship, given the high degradation of the soft tyres witnessed at the Mexico City track.
The Renault driver, who was disqualified from the last Grand Prix in Japan, finished 13th in FP2 – but just a tenth off ninth-place team mate Nico Hulkenberg.
He said: “It’s really, really tight and I think there was a tenth, a tenth-and-a-half between five cars today. It’s going to be close but I certainly feel like we’ll get it together tomorrow.
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“It’ll remain close – I don’t think anyone’s going to have a big buffer. I know I can improve a few areas [and] I know I can get a bit more out of the car.”
If the soft tyre falls away like it did today, it’s going to be an interesting qualifying
Ricciardo also implied that the teams with the pace to reach Q3 – who will then have to start the race on the tyres they used in Q2 – may rejig their plans after FP3 in order to have a choice of which tyres to start the race on. That’s because the soft tyres, advantageous as they were on short-run pace in FP2, have been wearing remarkably quickly in Mexico.
“We’ll see,” replied Ricciardo coyly when asked if Renault would deliberately try to avoid reaching Q3.
“I guess we’ll talk after FP3 tomorrow, a bit of pre-quali strategy. If [the soft tyre] falls away quite like it did today it’s going to be an interesting, strategic qualifying session tomorrow.”
Renault have lots to play for in Mexico, with just an eight-point constructors' advantage heading into the weekend over Toro Rosso – whose drivers Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly showed solid pace on Friday, finishing FP2 in sixth and seventh respectively.
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