Daniel Ricciardo suffered a disappointing season in the 2017 Formula One campaign, finishing fifth in the Drivers’ Championship. The Australian had put forward a solid outing in the previous term, only being beaten out by the two Mercedes drivers at the top of the standings, placing in third and notching a victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix.

However, the 28-year-old was plagued by a series of issues with his Red Bull RB13 during the campaign, suffering six retirements that knocked him out of contention. Ricciardo and his team have the challenge of attempting to bridge the gap to Lewis Hamilton at the top of the sport. The Brit remains the class act of the circuit and that shows no signs of stopping anytime in the near future.

The Australian’s task to dislodge Hamilton is highlighted by his F1 betting odds of 13/2 to win the Drivers’ Championship next season. Red Bull have to be able to match the speed of his rivals by producing a better vehicle than the past campaign, otherwise, they could risk losing Ricciardo as his contract expires at the end of 2018. Mercedes and Ferrari could both be in the market for a new driver and, with Max Verstappen off the market, he represents a quality competitor to fill a void.

It was clear from the off last term that Ricciardo had a challenge on his hands to better or even replicate his third-place finish of 2016. He suffered a five-place grid penalty at his home Grand Prix in Melbourne before his race was ended by a fuel cell issue. Whereas he had bettered Sebastian Vettel in the previous campaign, Ricciardo was forced to watch as the German triumphed.

He struggled to get back into contention, finishing fourth and fifth in China and Bahrain before suffering another issue with his Red Bull – this time his brakes ruled him out after five laps in Russia. However, Ricciardo found his form and reliability from his car to reel off three third-place finishes on the bounce before he notched his first victory of the season in Azerbaijan. The 28-year-old capitalized on a collision between Hamilton and Vettel to claim the win, which moved him into fourth place in the Drivers’ Championship standings.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB13 - 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Ricciardo took advantage of the collision between Hamilton and Vettel to win the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. (Red Bull Content Pool)

An incident with Verstappen in Hungary stymied his momentum, knocking him out of the race. However, he responded with an excellent run of form, earning a place on the podium in four of his next five races, including a second-place finish in Singapore – only losing out to the speed of Hamilton. His season was to end on a low note as those successes were diminished when he was forced to retire in three of the final four races of the campaign, a development that pushed him down the standings.

Verstappen had the same issues and Red Bull Racing has to act to keep both men in contention. Ricciardo has the talent, given his success, despite plying his trade in an inferior car to Hamilton; this will have been noted by Mercedes and Ferrari. Therefore, the Australian’s team need to sharpen up for 2018 to achieve the results Ricciardo is capable of producing.

Images via Red Bull Content Pool

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Geoff Burke

Journalist at MotorsportM8
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