Birthday boy Verstappen 'gifted' third on grid by Ricciardo

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Malaysian Grand Prix
© XPB 

Daniel Ricciardo quipped that he had allowed his Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen to take third place on the grid in Malaysia as a birthday present.

Verstappen turned 20 on Saturday, and pipped his team mate by a narrow amount in the final round of qualifying at the Sepang International Circuit.

"I gave Max half a tenth!" said Ricciardo when asked what he had got Verstappen for his birthday. That was the margin that split the pair at the end of Q3.

"I wanted better, half a tenth is still half a tenth," Ricciardo continued in a more serious vein. "Third would have been nicer than fourth.

"Obviously half a tenth from Max, it's never nice, it's been half a tenth a few too many times," he admitted. "[But] I got the most out of the car. We can be pretty happy with today."

Ricciardo light-heartedly suggested that fourth place might actually prove the better place to start from. "That's where I won from last year!" he pointed out.

As for Verstappen himself, he was delighted to be celebrating his birthday with third on the grid.

"I think it's good for us in qualifying to be in this position," said the Dutch driver. "It's always good to drive on this track, especially in qualifying. Turns 5 and 6, they are flat out so it's a lot of fun.

"Also the crowd - it's amazing how passionate they are. Of course, you know, it's my birthday so to be third here is perfect."

Asked about his hopes for tomorrow's race, Verstappen said he simply wanted to avoid what happened in Singapore. He had crashed out in the first corner after being squeezed by the two Ferraris.

"I don't want to be sandwiched!" said Verstappen when asked about his plan for the start of this week's race.

Both Red Bulls were around half a second slower than the pole-winning time set by Lewis Hamilton. However, Ricciardo still believes that they will be able to take the fight to Mercedes on race day.

"Half a second to Lewis here isn't bad," the Australian insisted. "We can't really ask for more than that. Especially as Lewis in a Mercedes around here is always pretty strong.

"I'm feeling probably the same as everyone else for tomorrow," he added when asked about his plans for the race. "One stop can be possible, but tyres could become too hot. So, mixed strategies I guess.

"I think the podium is there, up for grabs, because Vettel is down the back," he mused. "Mercedes' long run pace has been hard to read."

And then there is the question about what the weather will do on race day.

"In the dry, the podium is still on," he said. "But in the wet, then you're talking more about a win. I think we can make something happen and spray some more champagne."

Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter