Ricciardo feared Red Bull ‘stitch up’
DANIEL Ricciardo feared he had been "stitched up" by Red Bull in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix but mustered a smile after talking it through with team boss Christian Horner.
The Australian, out of contract at the end of the season but now expected to sign a new deal, had a testy exchange over the radio after having to run ahead of teammate Max Verstappen in the final shootout on Saturday.
That meant Ricciardo was giving the 20-year-old Dutch driver, who is seen by many as a future world champion, the benefit of a "tow" while the Australian's car took the aerodynamic hit.
Ricciardo, already a double race winner this season, slowed in a bid to get Verstappen to go past but the youngster maintained position instead, with the team urging both men to hurry up.
"I'm not too impressed to be honest," the Australian told Sky Sports television after qualifying seventh - three behind Verstappen - at Red Bull's home circuit.
"We could have been more fair.
"We had three runs and I was just punching a hole for everyone. I'm not that happy. That's all."
But an unapologetic Verstappen insisted he had been following team protocol and it was Ricciardo's turn to lead out the two Red Bull cars - a viewpoint shared by team boss Christian Horner.
On a poor day for the team at their home race, Verstappen qualified fifth at the Red Bull Ring but Ricciardo was demoted to seventh by the Haas of Romain Grosjean - although the trio will be promoted following Sebastian Vettel's three-place grid penalty.
Both Red Bull drivers argued with their race engineers during qualifying with Verstappen objecting to an order from the pitwall to overtake his teammate when Ricciardo backed off.
"No, it's discipline," responded Verstappen. "Last week I was in front, now he is in front."
And in the closing stages of Q3, Ricciardo told his race engineer over the radio "there's no point me running" in response to a request to pick up his pace to ensure he had time to complete a final lap.
Ricciardo later told reporters that he had cleared the air with Horner and understood the position, grinning at the media crowd assembled in the team hospitality and pulling out his phone to film the scene.
"I either won or I said something," he joked.
Asked whether he had thought at the time that he was being "stitched up", Ricciardo said: "During the heat of it all, I thought so.
"I've had a few discussions since with Christian, with my engineer," he added. "(I) probably should have just talked about it more beforehand. I had concerns and I spoke a little bit with my engineer about it, but I guess as a team it wasn't discussed," he said of the strategy.
"But in my mind, in the car, I'm just like, 'It's obvious what's happening, isn't it? Give me a run where I'm getting a tow instead of giving everyone else a tow'. It was probably miscommunication."
Ricciardo added he accepted that Verstappen had not been in the wrong.
"If we made it black and white before qualifying, then I could be more upset with him," he said. "We both knew what was going on but I guess the competitor in us is not wanting to give an inch. I'm not mad at him for that, that's just how it goes. I can't be mad, it's just frustrating.
"It's qualifying, everyone's out there for themselves and actually the teammate is who you want to beat. It's fun, but the fun turned to a bit of frustration because I was getting the short straw. I thought one of the three runs I'd get preference, but that was just me assuming.
"It's not like he caught me by surprise. I knew what he was trying to do, he knew what I was trying to do. We're both trying to beat each other, but I thought the team might try and step in with the mind games we were playing."
- with Sky Sports