Daniel Ricciardo believes Red Bull is more ready than it has ever been for a new Formula 1 season since he joined the team.
Having cut his teeth with HRT and then Toro Rosso, Ricciardo was promoted to Red Bull in 2014 as a replacement for the retiring Mark Webber. Although he initially finished on the podium in Melbourne – second to Nico Rosberg at the opening race of the V6 turbo era – Ricciardo was excluded for fuel flow irregularities and has not had a realistic podium opportunity since then.
2017 saw Red Bull start slowly as correlation issues between wind tunnel and track left it on the back foot, but the Australian is confident the team is in much better shape this season.
“We are certainly more ready than we were last year, and probably every year before that since I’ve been with the team,” Ricciardo said. “We did a lot of laps and I think the pace of the car is not bad, but we still have some things to improve, which is normal. But, yes, going to the race and having confidence to push the car on the limit and push the engine a little bit – I think we have much more confidence now.
“We’ll see. I think Ferrari and Mercedes will be quick and other teams I don’t know… some teams put in some quick times during testing, so Melbourne is going to be interesting.”
Ricciardo says he has confidence Red Bull is closer to Mercedes and Ferrari than it was at the same stage last year, having been satisfied by the impact of upgrades introduced during pre-season.
“There were some runs we looked strong and others we struggled a bit with balance. I think looking across the field everyone had their moments of strong laps and then some weaknesses, so we are trying and testing. Sometimes you put things on the car and it doesn’t work but most things we put on the car seemed to help, so that is encouraging.
“There will be a few more parts on the car [in Australia] so hopefully some go-faster parts. I’ll be a little bit lighter in Australia and everything to try and get a bit more lap time out of it.”