Daniel Ricciardo Is Out To Make A Statement At The GP
Local Formula One ace Daniel Ricciardo is desperate to make a big statement at this year's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
And he's confident his Red Bull machine is capable of helping him do just that.
Ricciardo spoke to reporters on Wednesday in Melbourne and, while he believes Mercedes are still the team to beat, he's quietly confident Red Bull have closed the gap.
"I think for us to have a strong race would make a statement, more for the long term this year, and show that we're going to be fighting for the championship," Ricciardo said.
"It would be big. Obviously, personally, it would be awesome at my home race but, as a team, I think it would be huge.
"If the other teams aren't already (paying attention), then it would really get them going."
The 28-year-old is considered a title threat this year, with Red Bull's new car RB14 expected to join Ferrari and threaten Mercedes' domination in 2018.
Red Bull had won four-straight drivers' and constructors' world titles when Ricciardo joined the senior team in 2014 but have not claimed another since.
Confidence that the team have produced a car capable of catching four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton grew after Ricciardo impressed in the RB14 at recent testing at Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
"I think there's more confidence, not necessarily in myself, but just in the process over the last couple of months," Ricciardo said.
"Every year, the team works hard to build a fast car but, come testing, we've never really had much to show for it.
"This year, we obviously had a bit more so, from a team perspective, we're feeling much more prepared.
"As drivers, we're always prepared, or try to be, come race one, but there's a lot more confidence in the team."
The Red Bull star, who is off contract at the end of the season, has been linked to Ferrari and Mercedes for 2019 after failing to follow the lead of teammate Max Verstappen, who had re-signed recently until 2020.
Red Bull want the Australian to stay but have given him a deadline, with contract talks reportedly set to resume in April.
Ricciardo, however, is in no hurry.
"At the moment, I'm not really too bothered with it," he said.
"I'm not in any rush but also I think the results will do the talking.
"For any of us who are out of contract, I think the person who is going to be in the hot seat is not who does the best negotiating but who gets the results on track.
"It's really my focus just to come out on the right foot here in Melbourne and try to hopefully fight for a title this year."