Dan hunting for a podium spot


Daniel Ricciardo heads into his home grand prix in Australia this weekend in high spirits, which is in sharp contrast to how he felt a year ago.

Twelve months ago Red Bull and Renault struggled to come to grips with the new V6 engine regulations and the Milton Keynes squad started the year on the back foot. Ricciardo, though, somehow managed to finish the race second behind Nico Rosberg, only for him to be excluded from the race results as his car breached the fuel flow rules.

The mood at Red Bull and Renault is quite different this year after a solid pre-season and, even though he knows Mercedes will be favourites, Ricciardo is hoping to give Australians something to cheer about come Sunday evening.

"We're definitely more prepared," he told Fairfax Media. "Obviously, we have a lot more confidence in the car itself, the reliability, so I think we're coming into the race this weekend with a proper plan.

"It's not like last year (going into Albert Park), when it was 'Let's just put the car on the track and see what happens and, hopefully, it doesn't blow up'. So I think reliability-wise we're a lot better prepared and, pace-wise, we'll have to see. Mercedes haven't slowed down, but hopefully we can be in that hunt for at least third.

"Obviously, Merc is strong, we know that, but I think even if they're to run away with it, there's still one spot left on the podium, which I think we're close enough to be in the hunt for, along with Williams and Ferrari. So I'm ready to go.

"No matter what, obviously I'm going to give it all I can and, hopefully, that can give us a fighting chance for a podium on Sunday."

The Australian won three races in his debut campaign with Red Bull and also finished third in the Drivers' Championship.

Last year all the questions circled around whether or not he will be able to challenge four-time Champion Sebastian Vettel, this year he is considered the Red Bull number one.

"I don't feel any more pressure than last year – that was already a pretty big step for me," he said.

"Coming into a top team everyone was asking questions of me. Can I be up to Seb's pace? Can I get on the podium? I feel like I answered a lot of those questions.

"I think I've proved what I'm capable of and it's just a matter of hoping we've got the equipment."