July 6th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo qualified sixth for the German Grand Prix, behind the Lotus of Romain Grosjean. Ricciardo is confident he can better his career-best finish of seventh tomorrow, and is hoping to challenge for a podium position.
With the announcement just over a week ago that Mark Webber will be leaving Formula One at the end of 2013, Ricciardo has a point to prove. He drives for what is effectively the Red Bull junior team, and is in the running to replace Webber next season. His competition for the Red Bull seat comes from his own team-mate, Jean-Eric Vergne, and Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen.
Ricciardo's strong qualifying result, which comes a week after another strong qualifying result and an eighth place finish, can only help his aim of driving for Red Bull next season. Even more helpful, however, would be if he can beat Kimi Raikkonen in a straight fight tomorrow afternoon. That seems unlikely, as the Lotus has been the quicker car throughout the season, but there's no doubt Ricciardo will give it his all in pursuit of a result tomorrow.
In the other Toro Rosso, Jean-Eric Vergne will have his work cut out to score points in the German Grand Prix. In qualifying, it became apparent that the team's setup experiments had backfired on Vergne's car, and he qualified a lowly 16th. From there, he has a chance to impress in the race, as it will be an achievement for him to finish in the points. He is nonetheless on the back foot.
This is what the team had to say after qualifying:
Daniel Ricciardo: “I’m really delighted with the way qualifying went and it’s very encouraging to be sixth fastest for the second race in a row, which means we are seeing signs of progress and consistency. However, it was not as straightforward here as in Silverstone last week and we definitely had to pull something out of the bag to do the time and get into Q3. We exceeded our expectations today, as in FP3 we did not look so strong. I was particularly pleased with my Q2 lap. I think we did the best we could today and now we look ahead to the race. Last weekend I felt there was a better result than eighth waiting for me and I would like to go for better than seventh, which is my best finish so far. If there’s a chance of a podium, let’s go for it! Nothing’s impossible. The tyre strategy is going to be very interesting with some of the top ten on the grid starting on Primes.”
Jean-Eric Vergne: “We just weren’t quick enough this afternoon. All weekend my car has been very difficult to drive and that situation hasn’t improved since Friday and I have never really managed to put together a good lap. In qualifying, I didn’t make any mistakes and I was hoping for much better. Even if we cannot work on the cars before the race, we need to understand exactly what caused this drop in performance. Maybe it is linked to the tyres, their temperature or pressure, but I’m not sure. We will see what we can do tomorrow, where I hope to be more competitive and be able to push harder.”
Laurent Mekies (Head of Vehicle Performance): “Daniel qualified in the same position as he did in Silverstone, but today it was more unexpected. It did not look that promising yesterday and we changed a lot of things on both cars and tried different directions on the two cars, in terms of our approach to qualifying, to try and pick up our performance level. Clearly, we had more success with Daniel than with Jev, even allowing for some of the different tyre strategies we saw in Q3, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out tomorrow. The bottom line is that we did pick up pace today and even if there is a big gap on the grid between our two cars, we expect them to have similar race pace. We will be trying our best on the strategy side to bring Jev up the order tomorrow. As for Daniel, he nailed his lap in Q1 and Q2 and then produced another good lap in Q3 and he was definitely punching above his weight this afternoon.”