SUZUKA, Japan -- Red Bull split the setups on the cars of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo ahead of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, but they were still split by just 0.026s.
After both cars took part in Friday practice with relatively high-downforce setups, Ricciardo opted to trim his car back on Saturday to benefit from less drag and greater straightline speed. Verstappen stuck with the same settings, meaning he should have more downforce in Suzuka's flowing corners and could also be in a better position to protect his tyres during Sunday's race.
"Max stayed with the higher setting, I took some off," Ricciardo explained. "Already yesterday we were quite slow down the straight and once they [Mercedes and Ferrari] turn their qualifying mode up they are only going to increase that gap. I felt on Sunday we will get eaten up a bit with the other settings, so it was let's try it and see. On one lap it is pretty similar across the cars. Hopefully for the race it gives me a bit more of a chance to attack or defend.
"We had some simulators, an aero sweep on a simulator back in Milton Keynes, and the lower downforce seemed like the same lap time. So we thought if we can get it on one lap to be competitive with the low downforce, then it should give us a bit more chance in the race to attack or defend. I am happy to have that in the race knowing I will have a bit more straight-line speed to keep my elbows out."
Verstappen is hoping his setup will allow him to combat tyre degradation if the forecast for higher temperatures on Sunday holds true.
"I'm focusing more on the race tomorrow where it will hopefully be a bit warmer with more degradation and it should help me at least. We'll find out tomorrow but Daniel is third instead of fourth so we were still very close. But yeah, a little fun tomorrow in the race how it behaves, if no then we've learned a lesson for the future.
"I mean, I have nothing to lose for this year, so I was just hoping to get a bit more information about it and also for next year, it's always positive to do different things and then we'll find out tomorrow whether this is good. With the track temperatures, well they will change tomorrow because it'll be quite a bit warmer, we'll find out what's the best."