Australian Daniel Ricciardo will win Formula One grands prix this year, according to countryman Mark Webber, the man he replaced at the championship-winning Red Bull team.
Webber, who retired from F1 at the end of last season to race for Porsche in sports cars, said he was certain Ricciardo would beat his four-times world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel to the chequered flag at some tracks.
But he warned not to expect too much too soon from the young West Australian, who was promoted from Red Bull’s uncompetitive sister team Toro Rosso to replace his compatriot.
“First of all, he thoroughly deserves the seat – you don’t get a seat like that from not putting the yards in,” Webber said.
“He’s put the work in, he’s been over in Europe for a long time, and he left Australia very early to achieve his goal.
“He’s achieved arriving in Formula One, he’s earned his stripes, and now he’s in a top team where he can show to everybody, including himself, what he’s really capable of.”
According to Webber, Ricciardo has the mental make-up to be a grand prix winner and has even hinted he could be a future world champion.
“He’s got a very level head, he’s mature and he’s going to learn a lot of things this year which he’ll put in the computer for future years, and that’ll help him be a very handy grand prix driver,” said Webber.
“I believe he’ll win grands prix this year, which will be a very big confidence boost for him.
“He’s got a great team around him as well. Patience will be required to a degree because it is a bit of a new scenario for him.
But once he finds his feet, the sky could be the limit for him.”
Red Bull have had a frustrating time in testing in Bahrain ahead of next month’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but Webber believes the team will arrive in Melbourne ready to defend its title.
Ricciardo was sidelined for much of early testing due to a software issue with the RB10 and the team then discovered another mechanical problem after a brief run.
“In all honesty, it wasn’t a great day,” said Ricciardo, who eventually completed 15 laps.
“I guess we still need more time. We have four more days coming up and hopefully we can maximise those.
“I have to say that on the run we did today the car did feel better. But unfortunately another problem arose and we couldn’t exploit that potential.
“I hope we can do more running next week. I’m happy I’m doing the first two days. At this stage, we just need laps and I’m just hanging to get back in the car.”