Why it’s boom or bust for Ricciardo
DANIEL Ricciardo says being in a title fight in 2018 is the "minimum I would ask" as he prepares for a pivotal year at Red Bull.
The Australian is out of contract at the end of the season and is unwilling to sign a new deal until he understands the potential of his car. With the right "material", Ricciardo insists he can win his first championship.
"I still want to fight for that title," he said. "Wanting it is one thing but just being in the fight is the minimum I would ask.
"I am in a window now where I still feel young enough to have the fearless approach, but old enough in terms of experience so that over a championship if I had the car, I could win when I could and take points when I could.
"In a fight I believe I have the tools to win. I believe I can get it done with the right material."
Ricciardo will maintain an aggressive attitude behind the wheel as he pursues that elusive world title.
"Trust the car, trust the brakes, just go," he said. "It is a calculated but fearless approach. I am going to try and if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. I will be happier if I crash by trying than not trying and running around behind the same guy for 70 laps."
Ahead of this Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Ricciardo is determined to make up for last year's Melbourne debacle when technical failures ruined his weekend.
He's also excited about seeing what Red Bull's new and improved RB14 can do.
"We were all putting our hand up saying 'my fault' last year so this year is definitely time to get what we deserve in Melbourne, or rather, get what we came for, that sounds better," Ricciardo said.
"Getting in the RB14 for the first time was really sweet, hearing it fire up and seeing it with the new bodywork gets you excited for the year. The RB14 compared to the RB13 at this stage last year is a lot different. To start with, getting into the car is a lot harder.
"There is a fair bit of aerodynamic change this year, real enthusiasts will see it straight away and spot the differences, the main one being the shark fins have gone and obviously the addition of the Halo.
"I can't wait to get the season started, I'm hanging out to get back on the track and these new cars are very fast, looking forward to seeing you all out there."
Meanwhile Nico Rosberg says Lewis Hamilton's rivals will need a "perfect season" and must capitalise on the Briton's moments of inconsistency if they are to deny the Mercedes driver a fifth world championship.
Hamilton overturned a 14-point summer-break deficit to Sebastian Vettel last season to win his fourth title by 46 points, claiming nine race victories and a further four podium finishes.
The 33-year-old enters the 2018 season as favourite for the championship again and Rosberg, who beat Hamilton to the 2016 championship when the pair were Mercedes teammates before immediately retiring. says Valtteri Bottas, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Ricciardo will need to pounce when Hamilton is off form if they are to claim the championship.
"The weakness Lewis has is a bit of inconsistency. He has these periods when he is just not on it," Rosberg said.
"If you are able to pounce in those periods and really make the most of it, you can keep him down for a while longer. You have to make the most of it, absolutely, and Sebastian did that pretty well last year.
"When Lewis has his good weekends he is almost unbeatable, he is unbelievably fast and maybe the best guy out there.
"The only way to beat Lewis is to be 100% with everything, do the perfect season. Otherwise there is no chance."
Rosberg was replaced at Mercedes by Bottas at the beginning of last season and the Finn claimed his first wins in F1 with victories in Russia, Austria and Abu Dhabi.
On each of those weekends, Bottas out-performed Hamilton but a bright start to his debut season with Mercedes was blighted by underwhelming displays in the first six races after the summer break.
However, Rosberg believes his successor now has a solid base to build from and believes Bottas has what it takes to push Hamilton harder in 2018.
"I hope that Valtteri can be even closer to (Lewis) this year, because last year he showed some really big flashes of brilliance but it just lacked in consistency," Rosberg added.
"I think he can do it, I think he can really ramp it up even further and get very, very close. That is what we want to see, we want to see a good internal battle there.
"Then Sebastian has to be the next one as a big challenger for Lewis. For Kimi, looking at last year, it will not be so easy but maybe he can find a little bit extra this year.
"Then the Red Bull guys it depends on their car. If the car is good, those two are some of the most exciting prospects and when they are up in front there is always action happening."