Daniel Ricciardo says it’s tough for Red Bull to find itself “this far off the pace” after the Milton Keynes-based team won four consecutive Drivers’ championships and as many Constructors’ trophies in 2010-2013.
The Australian finished a lapped sixth in his home race two weeks ago as he struggled all weekend with driveability issues in the Renault-powered RB11.
This has led to a deterioration in relations between Red Bull and its engine partner, with the Austrian company also threatening to leave Formula One if current power unit regulations do not change.
Although Ricciardo expects Red Bull to have fixed some of the problems that hindered their progress in Australia, the three-time grand prix winner admits it will be hard to challenge Ferrari and Williams in Malaysia.
Asked on how the atmosphere felt like inside the team with tensions swirling around, the 25-year-old believes recent comments stemmed from the frustration of not being able to challenge for wins after a period of continued success.
“I think that’s what you get after four years of winning,” said Ricciardo in Sepang. “It’s hard to then be this far off the pace. We’ll get back there. Obviously, we know it’s going to take a bit of time because we’re quite far off but we’ve got to make things better rather than make them worse.”
“Obviously a few things have been said and there’s a bit of tension but when you get down to it, the team itself is still fine. It’s a bit of frustration with the team, including myself. We’re all very competitive. They want to be better than a sixth place basically.”
Ricciardo also went on describing concretely how the driveability issues he encountered in Melbourne affected the car’s set-up.
“Generally speaking, (it’s about) getting on the power and (the engine) is not having a linear response. Sometimes, for example, the power might kick in too aggressively and you get a snap of wheelspin no matter how much rear grip you’ve got in the car.
“It’s too aggressive for whatever grip you’ve got so that’s always compromising your balance. I think it’s the inconsistency that it comes with. Maybe, let’s say, when it’s pretty smooth one lap, when it chooses to be smooth, you find maybe you’ve got too much grip.
“But then on other laps, when it’s not, you don’t have an answer. Finding a good set-up was difficult because you did not really know what to compare. It was just trying to find a compromise but it was not really the optimum for any settings.”
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