SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS -- Daniel Ricciardo refused to be too downbeat about qualifying fifth in Belgium after a strategy gamble narrowly paid off in Q2.
Ricciardo set his quickest Q2 time on the soft tyre, which the regulation state must be the race tyre for those who make it through to Q3. However, that decision saw him drop down the timing screens in the last moments of the session as others improved, though he ended up finishing 0.3s clear of the drop zone.
The Australian admitted those final moments of the session made for uncomfortable viewing.
"I was a little bit nervous but I told the team, because we set a target and I knew if I did a 48.0 it should be safe," he said. "We calculated what the other cars could do. We believed that was okay. I said to the team, look we had already decided before the session that this would be safe, so let's stay in the box, and they wanted to stay as well.
"They were keeping an eye on everyone. My engineer said, right, we are not going to go out, just fingers crossed. And it worked. It was close but it was okay."
A mistake on his first -- and quickest -- flying lap in Q1 ultimately cost him a place higher than fifth, with the late runs failing to yield any improvements. Ricciardo does not mind his disappointing final grid position because he will start on the favoured race compound.
"Generally I am not that disappointed with qualifying. I'd be more disappointed if I didn't make the softs work in Q2. Because we just got through with that, that was what I wanted to do. Of course better than fifth would have been nice, but fifth is still...if we are quick we can definitely still do something from there. It is where I started two years ago, so it can work if you are quick enough."
Ricciardo will line up fifth, behind both Ferrari drivers, who will also start on the softs. Teammate Max Verstappen will line up alongside polesitter Nico Rosberg but will start on the more delicate super-soft tyre, meaning he will likely have to pit in the early stages of the race.