Despite failing to make the top 10 cut during qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo will start on the fourth row of the grid due to a plethora of grid penalties.
The Australian driver came within a tenth of making it into Q3 but was beaten late on by an incredible lap by Williams Racing’s Alex Albon, who had his best Saturday to date since returning to F1.
Ricciardo’s qualifying performance was actually very good for him based on his results this season, a performance that turned out to be even better given he had to make a late set-up change after FP3.
The 33-year-old revealed that the team had to make a late rear-wing specification change to his car, which left him going into qualifying without his “preferred” option.
His fourth-row start, though, does give him a strong chance of a points finish; however, he’ll have to be wary of the likes of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc who are two of the drivers starting at the back due to penalties.
The Honey Badger has been impressed by how “relatively competitive” he’s been at Spa-Francorchamps and is somewhat hopeful that his race won’t be a “disaster”.
“We had an issue this morning so we had to change rear-wing spec,” Ricciardo revealed in the paddock afterwards.
“So we are, let’s say, not on the preferred one. I mean, maybe it works amazing tomorrow, I don’t know. But it’s hard to really know what will happen tomorrow.
“In any case, I think we’ve been relatively competitive this weekend, so I don’t think it will be a disaster.
“Not predicting that by any means, but hard to know if we’ll be competing with Alpine or what – not sure. [Alex] Albon has been quick as well in the Williams so it’s hard to know, but I’m looking forward to going racing that’s for sure.”
Ricciardo’s team-mate, Lando Norris, is one of the seven drivers taking a grid penalty for Sunday’s race, with the British driver set to start from P18.
Coming through the field will be “extremely difficult” for the 22-year-old, who is planning to try and follow Verstappen’s and Leclerc’s inevitable rise through the field to his advantage.
The McLaren driver is confident that his car has the potential for points; however, he believes that it will only be possible if Safety Cars are needed during the race.
“It’s extremely difficult to know,” Norris said of his weekend chances.
“I feel like we’ve got a pretty reasonable car.
“I think it won’t be easy to get into the points, that’s for sure, even on a track like this – unless there are Safety Cars and all the things which kind of come into play for us, but everyone’s very close together.
“Mercedes are ahead and they will probably up their pace for tomorrow like they usually do. But then you have AlphaTauri, you’ve got Aston Martin, the Alpines, they are all extremely quick and some are quicker than us.
“Hard to achieve a lot tomorrow, but I think just getting into the points is our target.”