Daniel Ricciardo is adamant Red Bull’s junior team is “no longer just a platform for Red Bull Racing”, they’re on the grid to dominate the midfield.
The only company on the grid that owns two Formula 1 teams, Red Bull have used their junior team as a stepping stone for future Red Bull drivers.
Ricciardo counts himself on that list having raced for the team, known as Toro Rosso at the time, in 2012 and 2013 before he was promoted to Red Bull where he became a race winner.
Daniel Ricciardo chasing early-season ‘top-five’ results
But at a time when the 34-year-old’s career has come full circle as he returned to the Faenza team, Ricciardo lines up on the 2024 grid with lofty ambitions.
“You have to aim high, but being in this sport so long, you want to remain realistic as you don’t want to end up ultimately disappointed,” the Honey Badger told the official F1 website.
“Top-fives should be a target and if we get into that position, maybe some podiums present themselves. Of course, we want to win but, you know, let’s… I think we made steps last year, let’s make a few more steps.
“Do I think top-five results are on the table – and could they be on the table in the first half of the season? I’d like to think so.”
Aside from the rebranding of the team, Visa Cash App RB go into the new season with a new team boss at the helm in Laurent Mekies, the team having also signed Tim Goss as their Chief Technical Officer while Alan Permane has taken up the role of Racing Director.
“There are a lot of new personnel, some big partners coming onboard,” Ricciardo said. “The team has always taken itself seriously, but I feel like this is another step up.
“It’s no longer just a platform for Red Bull Racing, it’s a time for us to fight at the front of the midfield.
“I like what’s happened, the changes that have taken place. There’s something about the team, the mindset is a bit different, kind of like a point to prove. It’s cool. It’s fun.”
‘From a preparation point of view, there’s no more questions’
Last year Ricciardo returned to the team when he replaced the ousted Nyck de Vries only to break his hand in FP1 at his third race back, the Dutch Grand Prix, leading to a five-race injury lay-off.
He’s adamant he’s left “nothing” on the table as he prepares for his first full season back in F1 with VCARB, the driver already widely linked to Sergio Perez’s Red Bull seat come 2025.
“Feeling good,” he said. “I didn’t need as much of an off-season as everyone else, with a short 2023. It was still nice to go home, but I didn’t need to let my hair down so much.
“It’s like a pre-season now, I had all that, I had the preparation, I had a bit of a headstart last year – so I know the team well. Come Bahrain, there’s nothing left on the table. I can’t predict where we’ll finish there, but from a preparation point of view, there’s no more questions.
“Personally, the off-season didn’t feel like I was just on the couch. I mentally stayed in it so getting back in the car won’t feel like I haven’t driven for a few months – so I expect to get back into the swing straight away.
“I would say the way we developed the car through the tail end of last season, and we definitely found some things which at first definitely worked for me, and then I think Yuki [Tsunoda] found the strengths in it with his driving style, having a good Abu Dhabi.
“There is a lot to stay pretty upbeat about coming into the start of the year.”
Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda will reportedly run the VCARB01 on Monday in a private shakedown.