Even if the top three are unreachable this season, Daniel Ricciardo is predicting an intense fight amongst F1’s midfield teams.
After a four-month break, Formula 1 will return to the race track next month for the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.
The race will take place at the Red Bull Ring with Formula 1 remaining in Austria for a double header before moving onto the Hungaroring.
Ricciardo recently spent a day at the Red Bull Ring running an RS18 that was reportedly fitted with this year’s Renault power unit.
The time out on track not only gave him the opportunity to shake off the dust but also adjust to the new social distancing rules that Formula 1 has put into place.
But while teams will need to maintain as much distance as possible from one another throughout the race weekends, don’t expect any distance out on track.
In fact Ricciardo reckons this year’s midfield battle will be extremely close with three teams separated by less than a tenth of a second.
“I certainly expect to be close,” the Aussie told F1 Nation podcast.
“All we’ve got now is testing back in February, and we kind of had our analysis after the testing and tried to figure out where everyone stands, and all I can say is, the lead midfield car, it was really hard to kind of figure it out if it was us or not.
“It looked like I would say at least three of our midfield teams were all within a tenth.
“Austria for us last year was maybe our worst actual weekend of the year. So I think if we could come out there and be at the front of the midfield, I think that looks good for us for the rest of the season.
“But it’s hard to predict, to be honest.”
One team Ricciardo is likely to be fighting this season is his new-for-2021 team, McLaren.
Last year the Woking team beat Renault to ‘best of the rest’ in the Constructors’ Championship.