They’re yet to race side-by-side but Daniel Ricciardo is well aware there are plenty of Formula One fans counting down the days till he and teammate Sebastian Vettel fall out.
But while the Australian is promising to put up a fight, he says it’ll all stay very professional.
Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix will be Ricciardo’s first alongside four-time world champion Vettel in the Red Bull team after replacing compatriot Mark Webber.
Vettel and Webber shared a fierce rivalry in their five seasons together, but things soured in 2010 when the pair clashed – on and off the track – over an incident during the Turkish Grand Prix.
Relations reached an all-time low in Malaysia last year when Vettel ignored team orders not to overtake Webber, who was coasting to victory at the Sepang circuit.
Ever since being named as Webber’s replacement for 2014, there’s been plenty of focus on whether Ricciardo’s arrival will mean an end to the corrosive rivalry within the Red Bull garage.
“I guess they’re trying to find something with it,” 26-year-old Ricciardo told AAP ahead of Sunday’s season-opening Grand Prix in Melbourne.
“A lot people are probably waiting for the day that we have an incident on track and get into a fist-fight or something.
“But at the moment all I can say is there’s no issues.
“I respect him as a competitor. Naturally, if I am competitive, I’m sure we’re not going to be the closest mates because he’s not going to like that and I’m not going to like getting my arse kicked if he’s going to be doing that.
“We’ll see. I don’t expect it to get out of hand. It’ll just be competitive and professional.”
This week will no doubt be the biggest – and busiest – in Ricciardo’s young career.
The Perth-born driver not only has to deal with the extra attention of being the sole Australian on the grid, but also the pressure of being in a team facing an uphill battle to retain their F1 domination.
“Testing can be a bit boring, so I’m just happy to go racing,” Ricciardo said.
“The sooner it starts the better, and then we know as well where we stand.
“All the hype and everything will start to die down once people see what’s happening.
“I’ve got to make sure the race is my biggest focus and not get sidetracked.
“Obviously there’s a lot of Aussies and a lot of home support, and friends and family that have come over from Perth, but I can see them Sunday after the race.
“I just have to be smart and ensure I’m not getting pulled left, right and centre.”