Daniel Ricciardo believes that his charge to third place in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix is proof that Red Bull has cut the gap to leading Formula 1 teams Mercedes and Ferrari across the course of the 2017 season.
Ricciardo started fourth at the Red Bull Ring before passing Kimi Raikkonen early on, and came under pressure from the recovering Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages.
Ricciardo was able to hold Hamilton back and finish 1.4 seconds ahead in third place, clinching Red Bull a podium at its home race.
“It’s a relief especially when you’re being hunted, especially at the end of the race,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.
“I had some sweat coming down in my eyes. Little things towards the end of the race just make it a bit more tricky. So it was just a combination.
“Obviously Lewis has a lot of pace, especially with that car. I was like the odds are probably against me to hold on, but I was kind of relishing that challenge. He got close, but I felt like I defended well. We pushed to the limit but I felt it was still clean and fair.
“Crossing the line, another podium, to do it here in front of Red Bull was special.”
Red Bull had been marooned as the third-fastest team in the early part of the season, failing to put up any kind of fight to Mercedes and Ferrari in the opening rounds.
The team has cut the gap through the season, though, with Ricciardo finishing just six seconds behind race winner Valtteri Bottas in Austria, signaling the progress made.
“That probably outweighs everything else. For me personally, the podium, it’s another awesome trophy in the cabinet, but to be within 10 seconds, and everyone finished,” Ricciardo said.
“Baku we won, but for sure some guys had some issues. We had genuine pace today, on a circuit which isn’t our strongest.
“There’s a lot of positives to take and I’m really happy with the way the team’s moving and for sure it would have been nice to be here in Melbourne, but all we can ask for now is to keep getting better, and we are, so that’s good.”