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Daniel Ricciardo expected Red Bull to be closer to Mercedes

Daniel Ricciardo at Japanese Grand Prix.

Red Bull's pace so far during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend has been worse than expected, according to Daniel Ricciardo.

The team scored its best result of the season last time out in Malaysia, with Max Verstappen winning and Ricciardo taking third at Sepang.

But in qualifying at Suzuka, Riccardo and Verstappen finished around one second off the pace set by pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton, in fourth and fifth respectively.

When asked if he had expected to be closer to the pace, Ricciardo said: "Yeah. A second is quite a bit.

"Before the weekend, I thought it would be around more six tenths, half a second but after the morning we were a bit off the pace.

"I don't think we could have done anything better.

"Max and I tried different downforce settings and we still ended up with more or less the same lap times so I don't think we left half a second anywhere.

"I think if we both stayed on the high downforce from yesterday then maybe we'd have said 'we should have tried, we should have experimented'.

"I made the decision to try overnight and our lap times are pretty much more or less the same.

"I don't think we could have done more with what we had today, relative to the gap to pole but yeah they're [Mercedes] just too quick unfortunately.

"They've obviously found the step they needed through here maybe to cool the track. I think Mercedes do perform better on cooler surfaces."

Verstappen echoed Ricciardo's thoughts that the cooler temperatures at Suzuka and the lack of tyre degradation have swung the advantage away from Red Bull while adding the nature of the circuit has hurt the team, too.

"This track has become a lot faster, so a few corners have been flat out now compared to last year when it was still a corner," he said.

"The corners which are flat out are also power related so we are losing more than we expected on the straight.

"In sector one, there aren't too many corners on the track where you gain a lot of lap time.

"There isn't much degradation, the heat isn't a big factor here."

Verstappen chose to stick with the downforce levels the team had run on Friday while Ricciardo took downforce off and the Australian is hoping that will help him in the race.

"We thought if we could get it on one lap to be competitive with the high downforce then it should give us more of a chance in the race to attack or defend," he said.

"Nothing is guaranteed but I'm happy to have that in the race now knowing I'll have a bit more straight line speed to keep my elbows out."

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