Daniel Ricciardo is hoping to surprise a few people and finish inside the top six in Sunday’s season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix.
Ricciardo will start the race from eighth on the grid at Melbourne’s Albert Park, behind Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg who again locked out the front row.
The 26-year-old was content with his qualifying pace, admitting it was more or less where he felt Red Bull sat in the pecking order.
Unlike teammate Daniil Kvyat who qualified only 18th fastest, Ricciardo survived the first two knock-out rounds but was beaten by the clock in the final session.
“I’m happy with that,” he said.
“We knew, all going well, we’d be a top eight car this weekend in the mix with Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso.
“We’re more or less in that sandwich.”
Red Bull’s junior team, Toro Rosso, both qualified better, with Carlos Sainz in seventh and youngster Max Verstappen an impressive fifth.
The team is this year powered by a 2015 Ferrari engine, not Renault like Red Bull.
But Ricciardo feels his car has “decent” race pace and will challenge them on Sunday evening.
“I would like to say it should be a little bit better than Toro Rosso,” he added.
“It’s just a case of whether we jump them at the start. Obviously they’ve got a bit more power this year with the engine they’ve got so we’ll have to work out a good strategy to get around it.
“Raw pace, I think we should maybe surprise a few people and become a top six car.”
The Perth-born driver didn’t give the new qualifying format a glowing reference, believing the third round was somewhat an “anti-climax”.
He said the first two knockouts seemed to add more pressure on the drivers, but by the time it reached the final stage there were few cars out on track.
“It was clear in my mind what needed to be done, but probably for a spectator with most guys out of their car before the session was actually over it was probably a bit of an anti-climax.”
Ricciardo planned to have a relaxed night with family and friends on race eve, with a high calorie dinner on the menu.
He qualified seventh and finished sixth at last year’s race.