A bullish Daniel Ricciardo is eyeing more than just regular finishes in the lower reaches of the points as he approaches his second full-time season of Formula 1 competition.
The West Australian made his first major press appearance ahead of his home Grand Prix, sailing in on the Melburnian pleasure cruiser down Melbourne’s Yarra River in an event also designed to showcase the outfits being worn by the 2013 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix grid girls.
Given his longstanding connections with the Red Bull drinks group, there’s an obvious expectation that either he or team-mate Jean-Éric Vergne will be next in line for a seat at the senior Red Bull Racing team if – or when – Mark Webber opts to hang up his helmet.
But to even stand a chance of replacing his elder compatriot, Ricciardo knows he is going to have to deliver something special – or he could risk heading for the scrapheap like many a Red Bull protégé.
“If [we] are matching each other this year it’s probably not going to be enough,” he told the throng of reporters, including RichardsF1.com, at today’s media event.
“So I definitely want to try and blow it apart if I can, do something special.”
Much has been made about the relationship he and Vergne have as team-mates, and Ricciardo was famously quoted during the off-season as saying that the intra-team competition meant that he and the Frenchman – who he raced against for several years in junior-level championships – could no longer be friends.
“Nothing’s really changed between us, we’ve been competitive now for a few years and the relationship’s become even more competitive,” Ricciardo continued.
“A lot’s on the line. I don’t think any teammates are great friends – Mark [Webber] will probably answer to that question as well!” he joked.
“It’s just how it is and how probably it should be; if you’re too close with someone you’re not going to go 100% against them so it’s good to have that fighting spirit.”
Ricciardo hasn’t finished higher than ninth in his short Grand Prix career, but he knows he will need to target much better results to move to the more senior Red Bull-owned team. However, he also acknowledged that talent alone won’t be enough to get him there.
“You also need the package to do it as well – you can do all you want but the car does play a part,” he shrugged.
“As a team we’re going to improve this year and myself, with extra confidence, more experience, these things will naturally improve as well. I’m coming in with a bit more anger, I guess, a bit more determination to make sure I’m getting the most out of it.
“I think we’ve improved. The bigger question is, how much has everyone else improved? I think we have a bigger step to make to really get in amongst that midfield we’re fighting with. I think we fell a bit behind them last year for the majority. I think we’ve improved but we’ve got make sure we’ve improved more than them to get back up to their level.”
Ricciardo conceded that pre-season testing won’t give any real indication of how the grid will be made up, with the chilly Spanish conditions far from representative of how conditions will be in the opening races of the season.
“I would like it to stay warm like this!” he said, referring to the eight-day-long heat wave Melbourne is suffering.
“It’s going to change, I’ve heard, but as long as it stays dry it’s going to set the playing-field pretty evenly and hopefully we can get up there in the points. That’s the real aim.
So can we expect another closely-fought championship fight, as was the case last year where it took until the eighth round of the season before we had a repeat winner.
“The top teams for me will still be the top teams, but I think there’s five which can battle for wins from what we’ve seen in testing,” Ricciardo added.
“The Red Bulls, Ferraris, McLarens, Mercedes and Lotus all seem really quick so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a whole bundle of winners – myself included would make me a happy boy!”
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