SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo believes he can get back on the Formula One podium in Singapore on Sunday after his winning streak ended in Italy two weeks ago.
“I guess I am expecting a podium. I think we have to aim for that if we want to stay in the title hunt,” the smiling Australian told reporters on Thursday.
Ricciardo is the only driver to break the Mercedes stranglehold on winning this season with victories in Canada, Hungary and then Belgium in his first season with the champions.
His car should be much more suited to tackling the demands of Singapore’s tight, floodlit street circuit than the sweeping curves and long straights at Monza where the Mercedes drivers finished one-two.
Ricciardo sits third in the driver’s standings on 166 points with six rounds remaining, 72 behind leader Nico Rosberg, but is confident he and champion team mate Sebastian Vettel can be more competitive in Singapore than in Italy, where they finished fifth and sixth respectively.
“I believe we will be the second best team out of the box tomorrow. The question is how close can we get to Mercedes. I definitely think we are going to be closer than Monza,” said Ricciardo.
“This is obviously a track that should help us out a bit more.”
Vettel has won the Singapore Grand Prix for the last three years on a 23-turn layout that seems tailor-made for the Red Bull, a dominance Ricciardo is hoping to continue this time around.
“If we can be within a couple of tenths (of a second per lap) then that would be good result... it means we can race with them on Sunday and I expect to be a couple of tenths in front of the next best team,” he added.
“All going well, we should be on the podium.”
Ricciardo has enjoyed a remarkable first season at Red Bull and sits 60 points ahead of Vettel, a feat he puts down to the fact that the raft of changes following the last campaign had less of an impact on him, coming from a smaller team.
“I think it was easier to come from a Toro Rosso to Red Bull because there was a smaller difference between the cars from last year to this,” he added.
“My (Toro Rosso) car did not have as much grip as Seb’s Red Bull from last year so the grip loss for him was a lot bigger than it was for me, to be fair. So it probably took him a lot longer to adapt than I did.”
The Australian was quick to point out that his early-season dominance over his German team mate has evaporated in recent races with Vettel proving faster than Ricciardo in qualifying.
“I don’t think he is struggling as much as people think. He has out-qualified me for the last three races now so he’s obviously got to grips with the car better,” he said.
”My race performance has been the surprising thing. I think what I had going for me the past few races was tyre management... I have been able to look after them a bit better.
“In terms of pure speed, from now until the end of the year, there shouldn’t be any more question marks over us.”
Ricciardo said it was also too early to raise the question of team orders.
”No, not yet,“ he said. ”While both of us are still mathematically eligible then we still able to race and do what we can. Then if one of us gets knocked out before the other then I think we may apply some team orders.
“I’d like it to stay that way and not rely on Seb’s help. Nothing against him or the team but it’s fair. We are still both quite long shots anyway.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin