“I think I’ve got a pretty good chance of the top 10, absolutely. That’s about it,” Ricciardo began playfully yesterday, though many believe that Red Bull’s levels of downforce on the RB12 should see them in very good shape at this challenging track with its 23 corners, especially after the way he went in Monte Carlo back in May where he only lost because of a team pit stop error.
“It’s obviously the next closest track to Monaco, so sure we look at it as a good chance to try to get the victory I’ve been after this season,” the Australian continued. “With the team, since Monaco, a lot of things have been working better, in terms of I think we’ve executed a lot more on a Sunday and I’ve left Sundays feeling a lot happier the last handful of races, so that’s been good on both sides. I feel I have executed as well good things on Sunday. Let’s see.
“I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself or them for this weekend but I think deep down we obviously want to win. I believe we are a group of winners, so if there is a bit of pressure on us to get it done then I think we will thrive off that. Let’s see what happens. I’m definitely prepared and excited. I don’t know what I’m paying for a top 10, but it’s safe money.”
Interestingly, Red Bull and arch rivals Ferrari - winners here last year - have gone for different tyre strategies this weekend. Ricciardo and team mate Max Verstappen have opted for four sets of supersofts each and seven ultrasofts, whereas Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have gone for two and nine respectively. For the record, the Mercedes drivers have gone for seven sets of ultrasofts too, but Lewis Hamilton has three sets of softs and Nico Rosberg four, whereas the Ferrari drivers only have one set of softs apiece and the Red Bull drivers two. Hamilton thus has three sets of supersofts, Rosberg two.
“I think it can maybe decide a few things, whether it’s on Sunday I’m not sure, obviously we’ve got freedom to use any of those tyres during practice,” Ricciardo said. “Maybe us or Ferrari, for example, will change our practice runs now and use a different compound to try and have something similar for the race. But yeah, it can [make a difference], here because it’s so hot, the tyres do normally get a hard time and it’s low-speed corners, a lot of traction and the rears can get a hard time for sure so I think if you’ve got too many softer compounds, you might run into a bit of trouble in the race. But we’ll see.
“It’s been quite exciting this year, being able to use three compounds over a weekend and having been forced to choose them months in advance. Sure, if we could have picked the tyres this week, we all probably would have done something different. It’s a bit more of a lottery, makes it exciting and makes our practice runs perhaps a little bit more calculated.”
Singapore has the reputation as one of the hardest races on the calendar physically, and Ricciardo touched on that when he said: “It’s the toughest, sure. It’s similar heat and humidity to Malaysia but you’re surrounded by just the city and a lot of concrete, so it’s the one race I feel where you open your visor to get some air and you’re not getting any reward for that. It’s just heat and stale air. In Malaysia there’s a bit of circulation: even though it’s hot you get a bit of a breeze but here, no. If you come here unprepared, then you can’t luck into a good result. You’ve got to come ready to go.”
He might not believe it, but many people here feel that of all the drivers, he’s the one who is the most prepared to do just that.