Daniel Ricciardo “genuinely thought” Red Bull had a chance to win the Bahrain Grand Prix in the early stages as he and teammate Max Verstappen stalked the leaders.
Despite a big deficit in the opening two races Red Bull looked closer to the front all weekend in Sakhir and Ricciardo beat Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to fourth on the grid. He kept the Ferrari behind into Turn 1, only to see teammate Max Verstappen pass them both to take fourth position.
In the opening stint the first five cars — led by Valtteri Bottas — were never further apart than six seconds, with Red Bull looking perfectly poised for a surprise challenge for victory.
“It was a race of two halves really,” Ricciardo said. “At the beginning I genuinely thought we had a chance to win. That stint was looking very competitive and I could see Valtteri was struggling.
“I was at the tail end of the front pack and I could see everyone else in front of me — they were sliding and looked like they were struggling more. It was easy for me to stay there and I was looking after my tyres, so at that point I was thinking it could be on today, not only for a podium but for a win.
“The safety car worked for me in that we jumped up to third but it wasn’t so good for our tyres and that’s where we lost a lot of ground. Even once we settled into a pace and the chaos settled we fell back and I was struggling with grip at the front and rear. We never really got that [soft] tyre working for us today.”
That early optimism all changed after the first pit stop, with Verstappen crashing out with a brake failure and Ricciardo struggling for grip after the restart following the Safety Car period. Ricciardo immediately lost out to Lewis Hamilton before ceding another position to Felipe Massa, something he put down to Red Bull not able to extract performance from the soft tyre like it could with the super-soft tyre.
“That tyre was just not happening for us today! At the restart it never felt switched on, as we…