Daniel Ricciardo believes this season Red Bull and Mercedes will once again be at the sharp end of the grid but “hopefully in reverse order to last year.”
Last season Red Bull Racing emerged as Mercedes’ main rival, taking two victories on their way to second in the Constructors’ Championship while Ricciardo was best of the rest behind the Mercedes pairing in the Drivers’ standings.
This season, though, Formula 1 is entering a new era, one of wider tyres and wings and higher downforce.
Aerodynamics have in the past been Red Bull’s strong suit with the Milton Keynes team hoping the new rules will allow them to challenge Mercedes from the get-go.
“I think there will be changes, but how it alters the pecking order we’ll have to wait and see,” Ricciardo told Red Bull’s official site.
“I still believe that Mercedes and Red Bull will be at the pointy end – hopefully in reverse order to last year!
“The cars are going to be quicker, the tyres wider, so maybe on some narrow circuits it could be a bit trickier, especially with a wider car; that might make the available room for opportunity slightly less.
“The cornering speeds will be quicker. If you’re a fan, get yourself to a fast corner. Whatever track you’re at, find one of the quick corners to really see what we’re doing.”
With just eight days of pre-season testing available before the circus heads to Australia, Ricciardo acknowledges that reliability will be the first point of order before moving onto lap times.
“The first thing you’re looking for is reliability,” he explained. “There are so few test days available. You know track time is important for the car, for development, but it’s also important for us physically.
“I know that my pre-season has been the best I’ve had in terms of physical preparation but it’s still not driving a race car. I’ll arrive fit and conditioned but the first day in the car is still going to hurt because you’re body is going through different things, things it hasn’t been through in a long time. You want to do the laps for yourself, so that you get that race fitness.
“After the reliability is settled you want to go through a corner and feel it in your bottom that it’s a fast car. Once you do one flying lap, you get an idea. It’s just the way it brakes and turns – you just know. Hopefully, it’s a good feeling, that first timed lap.”
As for his hopes for the upcoming season, the Aussie said: “I don’t write stuff down and say ‘Melbourne I want to be on podium’ or ‘here I want to do that’, I just make sure I’m prepared for every race.
“I’ve said it for a few years, the one thing I want to do, if it is a goal, is never leave the race on a Sunday, on a flight home, thinking “I should have done this or that”. I want to leave it all on the track on Sunday.”