Ricciardo wound up as Nico Rosberg’s nearest challenger in Shanghai, with his final Q3 run edging Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen by just 0.055s. It is only the fourth time in his career that Ricciardo will start from the front row.
“I’m shocked actually, to qualify on the front row here is an incredible performance,” Horner said.
“He [Ricciardo] got quicker and quicker and quicker and just pulled it all together - he just nailed it.
“We get to see the start lights from the front row for the first time in a long time, so we’re in the race!”
Ricciardo conceded he was similarly surprised by his pace in the final stage of qualifying.
“I’m not sure [where the speed came from],” he explained. “To be honest I didn’t think we started Q1 from the best position in terms of the balance, and it didn’t seem we would be in a fight for the front rows - but in Q3 we just found more speed.
“The supersoft [tyre] can be tricky to manage here because it gets chewed up quite a bit, so between that and the engineers making a few adjustments we got a good package at the end. Second is pretty awesome - I didn’t expect this!”
Red Bull’s last front-row start came courtesy of Ricciardo in Singapore last year - the only time all season they started as high as second on the grid.