SAKHIR, Bahrain -- After three races and a day of in-season testing, Daniel Ricciardo says the Red Bull chassis is still not where it should be.
Red Bull had high expectations ahead of the introduction of Formula One's new aerodynamic regulations this year, but pre-season testing quickly revealed the shortcomings of the new RB13 compared to Ferrari and Mercedes. The Red Bull's Renault power unit is undoubtedly lacking power compared to its two main rivals, but Ricciardo says the Red Bull chassis is still not as competitive as it should be.
"I feel like we're kind of where we've always been in terms of the gap [in power], the deficit it's kind of where it's been [the last two years]," he said. "The reliability is a bit of a question mark but the others have had their issues as well. Ferrari have had some things going on in practice and so on, and they won the race.
"Right now, if I would say engine or car, I'll probably say the car for now. I know what we can do with a good chassis and less power -- we can still put ourselves in the fight -- so I think the engine deficit is pretty much what it always has been. For sure I'd love more, but we're not maybe as strong as we should be from the chassis point of view."
Understanding Pirelli's latest generation of tyres is high on Red Bull's agenda during this week's test but Ricciardo said it is proving particularly tricky.
"It's a big part of it, I've mainly only raced with Pirelli but they've always been a pretty complex tyre whether they had the massive degradation or really slow warm up," he said. "In the last few years it hasn't been a consistent trend. The tyres this year feel very hard -- like I can't imagine what the hard-compound tyre would feel like -- but the soft doesn't feel like a soft and the supersoft doesn't feel like a supersoft so I think that's already part of the struggle is trying to get them actually turned on.
"But then if you get them turned on too early in the lap then they can be dead at the end so it's tricky to manage for sure and I would say the tyres this season seem more complex. I remember in China I think in practice or qualifying a Mercedes was going really slow, I think in qualifying, so I went past him on the out lap and then this weekend here we went slow they also passed me on the out lap so I think we're all trying to figure out what works."
Ricciardo believes Red Bull can gain a big advantage if it starts to understand the tyres before its rivals, but says if all teams reach a better understanding at the same time it will not make much difference.
"For sure I think if everyone is getting their tyres in the right window then I think it's downforce at the moment that is our main answer. It kind of showed that when we were pretty happy with the tyres and Mercedes maybe weren't it can really make a big difference. Like 0.8s of lap time will become nothing if they're not as happy as we are. For sure it's sensitive, they can make a big difference, but I'm sure at some point we're all going to figure out the best thing for the tyres and you'll still go back to trying to bolt more downforce."