Daniel Ricciardo knows that it’s going to be difficult for Red Bull to finish on the podium again in the next race.
Max Verstappen claimed second place in Singapore for the team despite suffering from engine issues. Ricciardo himself started and finished the race in sixth place, and suspects a similar slog awaits in Sochi next weekend.
“It’s not a track I’ve had an amazing result at,” Ricciardo explained when asked about the upcoming Russian Grand Prix. “It doesn’t really play to our strengths. But this is racing, so anything can happen.”
Ricciardo said that Sochi was “a pretty unique circuit” but didn’t start off with a particularly flattering description of the venue.
“It’s very flat and open. In some ways it feels like driving flat out in a car park!”
However the Australian admitted that the 5.848km, 18-turn circuit built around the city’s Olympic Park had grown on him since Formula 1 first raced here in 2014.
“It’s a surprisingly enjoyable lap. Apart from the long straight, there’s a lot going on and it’s a layout that keeps you thinking.
“The track surface has also improved over the last few years. When we first went there the track was very slippery but the grip levels have improved as the track has rubbered in, making it a more enjoyable circuit to drive.
“It’s definitely grown on me since we started racing there,” he confirmed.
So far, all four races held at Sochi have been won by Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton took back-to-back wins in 2014-15, with Nico Rosberg victorious in 2016 and his successor Valtteri Bottas coming out top last year.
Ricciardo’s best result in Russia was seventh place in 2014. Last year Ricciardo managed just five laps before being forced out with a brake issue. On the upside, his team mate managed to finish fifth behind the massed ranks of Mercedes and Ferrari.
Despite his track record here, Ricciardo isn’t giving up hopes of clinching his third win of the season after successes in Shanghai and Monaco. And if he were to win, it would help him out with another headache he has this weekend – what to do about Verstappen’s milestone birthday.
“I guess I need to go out and find Max a decent 21st birthday present,” he laughed. “Maybe I will just dedicate my race win to him!”