Daniel Ricciardo hopes the attention he’ll get as Australia’s sole Formula One driver at March’s season-opener in Melbourne will relieve the pressure of driving for reigning world champions Red Bull.
The 24-year-old graduated from sister team Toro Rosso to replace compatriot Mark Webber, who retired from Formula One at the end of last season.
Ricciardo will partner German four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel as he looks to join Michael Schumacher as the only man to win five consecutive world championships.
Vettel and Webber famously didn’t enjoy the best relationship as teammates due to a number of high-profile incidents which saw them go head-to-head on the track.
However, Ricciardo is embracing the opportunity to learn from the German and is hoping to be at least one step above him on the podium at some point in the season.
“Obviously I don’t expect to be treated like God. I am not the world champion, but I have been assured I will get equal treatment,” Ricciardo said after revealing Red Bull’s 2014 car – the RB10 – on the first day of pre-season testing at Jerez in southern Spain.
“After some time, hopefully not too long, I want the team to know that I am capable of getting some top results.
“I haven’t set any expectations about where I would like to finish. I would love to get a win. To stand on the top of the podium would be amazing.
“Most importantly, I want to go through the year continuing to learn and match Seb to set myself up at the front of the grid.”
Webber’s departure means Ricciardo will also be the only Australian driver to take to the grid when the season proper gets underway at Melbourne’s Albert Park in March.
And he is expecting the wave of home support to outweigh the pressure as he prepares for his first race in the new RB10 car.
“I won’t need much psyching up, Melbourne will take care of that,” he said.
“Being the sole Australian I am sure there will be a lot of attention. People talk about pressure, but for me it is exciting, the adrenaline will be pumping and seeing the Aussie flags around the track will be great.”
Vettel, meanwhile, believes Ricciardo’s two years working within the Red Bull umbrella at Toro Rosso will help him handle the transition.
“Advise is difficult because he has grown up. He has been in F1 for a couple of years,” he said.
“It is a new experience and environment, but not that much of a step because he knows the team, staff and has already used the simulator.
“He will take some time, but everyone is happy to have him on board.
“I am sure he will find his own way quickly. He is talented enough and has earned his place, so I’m sure he will give me a hard time.”