Daniel Ricciardo says he is struggling for pace on the ultrasoft compound tyre in qualifying trim after sampling it during practice for the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday.
The Australian finished second practice down in ninth after trialling the purple-walled compound – which is the softest of the three available this weekend – during the session as well as earlier on in Practice 1.
This weekend marks the first time in 2018 there has been a step in compounds in Formula 1, with the yellow-walled soft and white-walled medium the only other variants available in China.
Ricciardo admitted he was simply having trouble on the ultrasoft rubber over the course of the day and is not happy with the way his Red Bull performed during the qualifying simulations.
“The ultrasoft I struggled with on the qualifying run,” said Ricciardo.
“This morning and this afternoon we didn’t really find much time with it.
“I didn’t find a good balance on that today, we went two tenths quicker from the soft to that, and it’s two compounds softer, so we struggled to get one lap out of it.
“We used that tyre two times today and both times I wasn’t happy with it. On long runs we were able to manage it a bit better but we couldn’t get much out of it with low fuel.
“The ultrasoft is difficult, I just struggled to get more grip out of it today.
“I felt like after the first sector I had already killed the tyre, and the lap time didn’t really improve after the first three or four corners.
“This is a front-dominated circuit so you struggle a lot with the front tyres, but also the rear wasn’t that easy today either.”
While the ultrasoft compound looked to be the quickest in Friday’s running over one lap, it was the soft rubber that proved to be more consistent and the favoured one as teams performed long runs on each.
Ricciardo says it may come down to avoiding the ultrasofts for the weekend all together as his team work to make improvements to his car in qualifying trim overnight.
“I don’t think it’s a disaster, I don’t even know if we’ll use the ultrasoft that much in the race, but we want to find a bit more lap time with it,” he added.
“It’s no secret that a few people are thinking of qualifying [and therefore starting the race] on the soft, it’s not that bad a tyre around here.
“The ultra doesn’t seem to last that long, so you might see a few yellow tyres [softs] in Q2.”
Ricciardo says that his race pace looked more promising on the two harder compounds during Friday’s sessions, hinting at the strategy Red Bull could end up swinging with on Sunday considering his struggles on the ultrasofts.
Things could change if he doesn’t make it into Q3, as the Australian will be permitted to start the race on whatever compound he likes as oppose to the drivers who do make it through to Q3, who have to start the race on the tyres they set their fastest lap time on in Q2 – putting them at a strategical disadvantage.
“With the soft and the medium we’re more competitive,” said Ricciardo.
“We’re looking better on those tyres – that might push us in a certain direction for the race.
“Half of the morning and half of the afternoon was good. With the harder compounds I was more comfortable.”
“I don’t think we are actually looking too bad. We’ll make some adjustments and be stronger tomorrow.”
The Chinese Grand Prix continues with Practice 3 on Saturday at 13:00 AEST.