Ricciardo needs the right tools to go with his ability.
Ricciardo needs the right tools to go with his ability.

Dan adamant he’s a champion in waiting

DANIEL Ricciardo is convinced he has all the attributes to become a world champion in Formula 1.

The Australian is entering the final year of his existing deal with Red Bull and is set to be the pivotal figure in shaping the 2019 driver market.

In a telling indication of the regard in which the 28-year-old is held, both Mercedes and Ferrari are expected to be interested parties if Ricciardo opts against renewing his deal with Red Bull.

Asked on the Natalie Pinkham In The Pink podcast if he believed he could be world champion in F1, a forthright Ricciardo replied: "I do. I don't like the word expectations but I expect it from myself. What I believe I can do and from what I've learnt over the years, I expect I can deliver that."

Ricciardo doesn’t lack self belief.
Ricciardo doesn’t lack self belief.

Ricciardo is a five-time winner in F1 and outscored Sebastian Vettel during their solitary year together at Red Bull prior to the German's transfer to Ferrari.

"In this sport you need the tools as well," Ricciardo said. "I hope to get to those tools. I don't want to say I expect to receive those tools but if I get those tools I would expect it from myself to get the job done."

In a wide-ranging and fascinating insight into both the man and the racer, the Perth-born F1 driver dismissed fears engine suppliers Renault would not provide Red Bull with the necessary tools for the team and their drivers to become champions ahead of their own "works" outfit.

"As far as we know we get the most updated engines," Ricciardo said.

Ricciardo may not be driving a Red Bull in 2019.
Ricciardo may not be driving a Red Bull in 2019.

"I think Mercedes have a different deal with their customers. I've been assured and told there is no clause in the Red Bull-Renault contract.

"I kind of feel Renault would take a world title any way they could, especially after Mercedes' recent dominance over the last four years. For them, it would be better winning than not winning with us."

Meanwhile Ricciardo has declared he is determined to improve his performances in qualifying this season.

Ricciardo outscored teammate Max Verstappen last season by 200 points to 168 but the Dutchman held the upper hand in qualifying, beating Ricciardo 13-7 and by an average gap of 0.128 seconds.

"He did very, very well in qualifying," Ricciardo said. "But I believe I didn't perform to my potential often enough. But there were places like Abu Dhabi where I crossed the line after the lap with the feeling it couldn't be beaten.

"I think when I still get those feelings I don't think I can be beaten. But then again, it's not good enough just doing it a few times a year. I wasn't happy with my year on Saturdays."

Daniel Ricciardo is aiming to to better in qualifying in 2018. Picture: David Caird
Daniel Ricciardo is aiming to to better in qualifying in 2018. Picture: David Caird

Ricciardo believes his disappointing form in qualifying was a consequence of over-adjusting to Red Bull's 2017 car.

"I got stuck in old ways, or things which I was comfortable with, which didn't quite work with the (2017) car.

"I have been very sensitive with the set-up of the car. It's been a strength of mine because I could feel little things and I'd be like, 'We need to address that.' But sometimes it was a detriment because I'd be hypersensitive and trying to fix it as opposed to, 'Just get on and drive, it is what it is.'

"So sometimes I think I over-analysed it. But I learnt a lot and hopefully this year I will show that."

Much of the focus around Ricciardo in 2018 will be on his contractual situation and plans for 2019 beyond. Red Bull have made clear their preference would be to rehire Ricciardo to maintain a driver pairing they believe is the strongest in the sport. But a cagey Ricciardo is not yet ready to recommit.

"Next year will be a big thing for that," he said. "I have another year with the Red Bull contract so we will see where l end up."