Daniel Ricciardo believes he is poised to scrap with his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen for World Championship glory – as soon as the team can deliver a car with real race-winning potential.
On the eve of this weekend’s final Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, Ricciardo – who won last year’s race to the delight of an exuberant crowd including many Aussie fans – has also made clear that he believes Verstappen is his most competitive teammate.
“Max as a teammate has been my greatest competitor yet, and I think we have challenged each other more than anyone has before, so obviously we both believe we can win,” said Ricciardo.
“I look at Lewis (Hamilton) and Seb (Sebastian Vettel) as the other guys who are also at the top, but I don’t see them as better than myself or Max. I think we could run with them. Absolutely.”
Ricciardo says improvements to his race performance, since stepping up to Red Bull from Toro Rosso in 2014, have accelerated his development as he seeks to build for a world title challenge next year.
“In the past, Saturday has always seemed to be a strength of mine, in qualifying, and most people would talk about me qualifying rather than racing,” he said.
“But I feel over the years more people are talking about me racing. At the end of the day, Sunday is payday where you make the points and, you know, I definitely believe in myself.”
This year has seen Ricciardo have a run of poor reliability with two DNFs in the opening four races before bouncing back with seven podiums, including a fine victory at Azerbaijan in June.
He is now fourth in the Drivers’ World Championship and hoping that another strong result in Malaysia will keep him in serious contention at the top end of the standings.