Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo says he’s already benefiting from his new partnership with four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel, despite limited time on track together.
The Red Bull duo managed just 21 laps across four days of testing in Jerez, Spain, a fortnight ago, with their new Renault-powered RB10 failing on its first outing for the year.
Ricciardo has been racking up hours on the simulator at the team’s factory at Milton Keynes, England, since and is hopeful things will improve by the second round of tests in Bahrain next week – less than a month out from the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
“We’re confident we’ll run a bit smoother,” 24-year-old Ricciardo told AAP on Wednesday.
“But it’s so complex this year, until we get laps under our belt we can’t really be sure of anything.
“I saw the car yesterday and they’ve made quite a bit of progress, so hopefully we’ll get a few more laps and kickstart our season.”
While pressure is mounting on his team to repeat their great success of seasons past in 2014, amid the biggest rule changes in the sport’s history, Ricciardo is taking it all in his stride.
Little has surprised or overwhelmed the West Australian since his promotion to Red Bull from junior outfit Toro Rosso to replace compatriot Mark Webber.
He said the transition has been smooth and felt he was gelling well with the team – including Vettel, whose experience is already rubbing off on Ricciardo.
“Just by being around him (Vettel) at the track and at engineer briefings, even just hearing the way he communicates to team,” he said.
“I’ll pick things up naturally from him and learn the ins and outs of how he works.
“Obviously he’s not going to tell me how to drive around a corner – we’re all capable of that now. But being behind the scenes with him is already good for me.”
Webber reckons Ricciardo will give Vettel a “real hard time” in qualifying this season, telling next month’s edition of Motorsport magazine: “It’ll be 50:50 in the first year, I reckon”.
While flattered by the comment, Ricciardo wasn’t prepared to make a such a bold prediction himself.
“I haven’t fixed a number, saying 50:50 or beat him X amount of times.
“I really feel if I can challenge him for a start, that’s already a good place to be.
“Obviously we know the calibre of driver he is; so the first thing I’ve got to learn from him, respect what he does and then try to match him.
“I won’t say I’ll come out and beat him – because until I do that, I don’t want to say anything. But of course I’d love to.”
Ricciardo will be heading to Sydney Motorsport Park for the Top Gear Festival on March 8-9 to race in the inaugural Ultimate Speed Showdown.
The event will see six of the world’s most powerful engines – an F1 car, V8 Supercar, Mercedes SLS GT3, Ducati Superbike, World Time Attack Car and rally car – go head-to-head in a series of races at the Eastern Creek track.