Daniel Ricciardo thinks his hopes of challenging Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen over the course of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix hinge on clearing Sergio Perez at the start.
Ricciardo turned in an impressive performance to qualify fifth, maximising Red Bull's strength through the twisty final sector at Yas Marina. Ferrari is likely to be stronger than the Renault power unit in the first two sectors, which include long straights, and Ricciardo is keen to remove the Force India-shaped obstacle of Sergio Perez in fourth when the lights go out on Sunday.
"Force India is definitely realistic," Ricciardo replied when asked if he could go after Ferrari and Force India. "Between Force India, us and Williams it is going to be quite close. Whoever gets track position off the start will be the favourite for that battle. Ferrari will be a bit more tricky. If we can clear the Force India at the start, I would have a bit more confidence to try hanging with Ferrari. But if we lose too much ground at the beginning behind a Force India it will be hard to recover and catch a Ferrari."
Asked if he was surprised to be fighting in the top five, he replied: "I knew it would be tough to beat the Williams, so beat both of them is good. But we have the Force India two or three tenths in front of us, so that was a surprise. Generally top five is what I was after, and I can race well from there."
Ricciardo admits Red Bull's strength at the circuit was demonstrated by his performance in qualifying.
"In Q1 I was not particularly happy with the balance, and Q2 felt better and Q3 felt better again. It is good for the race that it goes a bit later into the evening, so if that is a sign of our speed then hopefully that is good for us.
"It is sort of track specific, in the last sector we gain a lot on our competitors. For the last half of the year the chassis has been really good, but here we bleed a little bit on the straights. What we bleed on the straights we make a little bit back up on braking. There are big braking zones here, so generally the track does suit us quite well."