DANIEL Ricciardo does not expect to hold fresh talks with Red Bull over a new contract until April.
Ricciardo’s present deal is due to expire at the end of the season, and he revealed to Sky Sports F1 at winter testing in Barcelona that there had been little development on fresh terms over the winter.
The 2018 season gets underway in Melbourne on March 25 and Ricciardo thinks negotiations will resume again after the first two or three races are over.
“Nothing has really developed since the end of the season. I switched off from F1,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports.
“I think realistically around April things will start to be spoken. After a few races, hopefully I win the first few and I can have a powerful say in what I do!”
Red Bull tied down Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen to a deal through to 2020 last October and have insisted they want the Australian to make a similar commitment.
Ricciardo is set to be a pivotal figure in shaping the 2019 driver market, with Mercedes and Ferrari rumoured to be interested in signing him if he opts against staying with Red Bull.
Ricciardo has been in the Red Bull stable for a decade, joining the senior team in 2014, and has previously said he is facing the “most important” decision of his career.
Key to Ricciardo’s thinking is whether Red Bull provide him with a car capable of challenging for the world championship.
The 28-year-old has declared he is ready to be world champion, but last year he finished fifth in the standings and 163 points behind title-winner Lewis Hamilton.
Red Bull brought forward the development of their new RB14 in a bid to make a better start to the season, and were offered encouragement after Ricciardo recorded the fastest time and completed over a century of laps on day one of pre-season testing.
But with their performance also dependent on their Tag-Heuer-badged Renault engines, team principal Christian Horner has downplayed their prospect of challenging Mercedes and Ferrari for the championship.
“We expect to have a similar amount of power to where we finished in Abu Dhabi, that’s what’s being advertised to us, so we have to do a great job on the chassis,” Horner told Sky Sports.
“Going for championships is not realistic at this point in time but our goal is to close the gap, be a challenger team this year and be as disruptive as we can, get amongst it in as many grands prix as we can and try and win as many as we can along the way.”
CAN ANYONE CATCH MERCEDES?
Mercedes should expect an even closer battle with Ferrari and Red Bull at the start of the new F1 season next month, says Valtteri Bottas.
The weather-affected opening days of pre-season testing have given few concrete clues as to how the pecking order could stand going into the campaign when it begins in Australia at the end of March.
Bottas, who has completed the majority of Mercedes’ running with the W09 so far, admits he too would be guessing at this stage but suspects the fight at the front will be even more competitive than it was at the end of last season.
“It’s way too early to say but if I would have to guess something I would say it’s definitely going to be closer,” Bottas told reporters. “And there will at least be three teams very close in the beginning of the year.”
Asked if McLaren could make it a four-team fight, Bottas replied: “As a team we don’t underestimate any team or driver. Of course Fernando (Alonso) is a good driver and maybe they have a better car, but it’s too early to say where the McLaren is and how strong they are looking.”
The world champions were a close second to Ferrari in the mileage charts at the end of the second day of testing but their 177 laps with the new W09 were still nearly 150 down on the number the W08 had racked up at the same stage last year.
But Bottas says the test has not been a complete write-off.
“I’ve learned a lot how to get the tyres to warm up,” he said in reference to the freezing temperatures. “I’ve learned about the new car and general behaviour and how it handles. I still need to really unlock everything and really test the limits.
“From our aero testing we managed to complete all of it already, which is always going to be good for the future.
“We’ve done some mechanical tests already and got some answers and we can trust at a good percentage, even though it’s cold. So it’s not two days lost. But everyone is looking forward to tomorrow (Friday) and next week.”
The Finn has completed all but 25 of Mercedes’ laps but played down talk it might give him an advantage over teammate Lewis Hamilton heading into the season.
“The miles in these conditions are less valuable than miles in proper conditions,” he said. “But I’ll take it. I love to drive as much as possible and definitely so far I’ve got a better understanding because of the mileage
“But Lewis will also get a good idea of the new car, he’s quick to adapt. I’m sure it’ll be fine for both of us.”