SHANGHAI: Daniel Ricciardo needed a “miracle” to get ready for qualifying after an engine blow-out, and Red Bull’s mechanics delivered one Saturday to keep alive the team’s hopes of challenging for the Chinese Grand Prix.
The team’s mechanics were seen frantically snapping major pieces of the car’s body back into place as the clock ticked down, allowing Ricciardo to tear out onto the track with only about a minute to spare.
“Obviously that was really close. We definitely were not doing that for the cameras,” said a clearly relieved Ricciardo.
“That was the quickest we could have gotten out.”
“It was closer than I wanted.”
After just missing the podium in his native Australia, the 28-year-old Ricciardo had to retire in Bahrain due to mechanical problems.
He was facing heartache for the second straight weekend in Shanghai after his Renault engine began belching flames and smoke halfway through the final practice session on Saturday.
Red Bull’s crews worked frantically but team boss Christian Horner had said they would need a “miracle” to get running again in the two hours before qualifying began.
But after mechanics added their final touches, Ricciardo nearly fish-tailed out of the paddock in his rush to become the last driver out on the track.
He eventually qualified for the sixth spot on the grid, just behind teammate Max Verstappen.
Sebastian Vettel seized pole position with a new lap record of 1min 31.095sec at the Shanghai International Circuit, just ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen in a lockout for Ferrari.
That upped the pressure on champions Mercedes, whose drivers Valtteri Bottas and defending world champion Lewis Hamilton took third and fourth, respectively.
Vettel had already stunned Hamilton and Mercedes by taking the first two races of the season in Australia and Bahrain.
Ricciardo said the recurring engine woes were “frustrating”.
But while conceding that Ferrari are looking like winners in Shanghai, he welcomed the chance to challenge Mercedes for the podium.
“I think Ferrari are still going to be very strong tomorrow but with Mercedes today I think we can race them tomorrow, that will be fun,” he said.