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Daniel Ricciardo bullish on Red Bull’s lineup, title hopes

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Daniel Ricciardo has spent a lot of his winter in Los Angeles, training and preparing for the new Formula 1 season that kicks off in just under two months at his home race in Melbourne.

And while it remains to be seen whether Red Bull’s chassis and power unit combination will be able to topple Mercedes, Ricciardo is bullish on their prospects, and on the pairing of he and Max Verstappen in their first full season together as teammates. Ricciardo begins his fourth year with Red Bull Racing this year, and Verstappen his second after being promoted from Scuderia Toro Rosso prior to last year’s Spanish Grand Prix.

“I think we can challenge, yes. If we make the same improvements we did last year then (Lewis Hamilton) won’t have anything easy, believe me,” Ricciardo said, via a Q&A with F1’s official website.

“I really think we do (have the best lineup). Now. Not sure who the second best line-up is. Don’t really care!”

Ricciardo said testing the new 2017 Pirelli tires has been weird because of the chassis difference in running an older car. But it’s at least provided a good baseline.

“It was hard to really evaluate. Sure, I felt more grip from the bigger tires, but the car was a kind of random/hybrid set-up so wouldn’t have given the real 2017 feel,” he said.

“But the tires seemed fun, so I expect good things when we get on track in Barcelona. From what we’ve seen in the simulator it will be a real challenge. But Barcelona will show the real thing.”

Dakar Rally video highlights from the concluding Stage 14

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NBCSN will air additional Dakar Rally highlights on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET and Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

The 40th Dakar Rally is now history.

Nearly 550 competitors began the early 5,600-mile long race 15 days ago and concluded Saturday.

As we’ve done throughout the Rally, here are some key video highlights from NBCSN’s coverage of the Rally: