Daniel Ricciardo doesn’t believe the Red Bull chassis is as strong as it could be, but understanding the new tyres could be key to reducing the gap.

Red Bull has been out of the title fight so far this season, and Ricciardo doesn’t believe that’s entirely down to the engine.

“I feel like we’re kind of where we’ve always been in terms of the gap,” he told ESPN. “The deficit is kind of where it’s been [the last two years]. 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.”

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Red Bull is currently third in the constructors’ championship, but has less than half the number of points as Mercedes. The team is expecting an engine update from Renault as early as the Russian GP, but if the chassis is also weaker than expected, more will be needed to catch up with Mercedes and Ferrari.

That’s where the tyres come in. Drivers have found it hard to manage the new, harder, Pirelli compounds so far this season, and Ricciardo believes understanding the tyres could give Red Bull the edge they need.

“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,” he said. “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.”