By Abhishek Takle
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Red Bull rekindled memories of their pomp at the Singapore Grand Prix, but team driver Daniel Ricciardo doesn’t expect a three-way tussle at the top in Formula One just yet.
The Milton Keynes-based outfit went into the weekend with their sights set squarely on victory, as the tight twists of the 23-turn Marina Bay street circuit played to their strengths.
Ricciardo couldn’t quite pull off the triumph he had been coveting, instead finishing second for the third year in a row, while team mate Max Verstappen was wiped out in a first-corner crash within seconds of the start.
But Red Bull, who won four straight drivers’ and constructors’ titles at the turn of the decade, did find a purple patch of form around the Singapore track reminiscent of their glory years.
Ricciardo topped both sessions on the opening day of track action before Verstappen dislodged the Australian during Saturday’s final hour of practice in the build up to qualifying.
The Dutch 19-year-old also topped the opening two phases of qualifying and would have been Formula One’s youngest ever pole-sitter but for a sensational lap by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
“Coming here, I really felt the package we were coming with (a win) was a realistic goal of ours that we thought we could achieve,” said Ricciardo, who was targeting a dominant weekend for Red Bull.
“(I’m) A little bit disappointed to miss out on a win, but I’ve still got to be pretty grateful and happy with another podium,” the ever-smiling Australian, who has finished in the top three on seven occasions this year, added.
Formula One next heads to Malaysia, where Ricciardo led Verstappen in a one-two last year, after Lewis Hamilton retired his Mercedes from a comfortable lead with a blown engine.
But while Red Bull — who had been expected to be Mercedes’ closest challengers this season — have made progress after a slow start to the year, Ricciardo feels the form they showed in Singapore is a one-off for now.
The 28-year-old, who scored the team’s most recent triumph at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in June, remains confident however of scoring at least one more victory before the season ends in Abu Dhabi in six races’ time.
“I think we can be podium cars, probably Malaysia, Japan, Austin,” said Ricciardo.
“But yeah, we might need some alternate conditions to really give us raw pace to fight for a win.”
(This story corrects Verstappen nationality in paragraph six)
(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; Editing by Christian Radnedge)