Daniel Ricciardo does not feel under any extra pressure heading into the 2015 season despite four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel leaving Red Bull and making the Australian the obvious team leader.
Ricciardo was the breakout star of the 2014 season, finishing third in the championship and claiming three race wins as he put his more established teammate in the shade.
Vettel announced in September that he would be leaving Red Bull at the end of the year, allowing Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat to move up into the seat.
Speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton, Ricciardo said that he did not feel any extra pressure following Vettel’s absence, saying that Red Bull is fully committed to the new chapter in the team’s history.
“I’ve been in the factory a few times since he left, and there aren’t too many boxes of tissues!” Ricciardo joked. “It’s part of the game. People move on. What he gave to Red Bull was mega, and they’ll always have a lot of respect for him and for what he brought.It’s a new chapter now, and I’m ready to try and get a few more trophies of my own in there soon.
“It’s a new chapter now, and I’m ready to try and get a few more trophies of my own in there soon.”
Despite appearing to be the new team leader at Red Bull, Ricciardo feels that it will not be until he goes head-to-head with Kvyat out on track that the roles become clear.
“A few people have already said ‘now you’re a team leader’,” he said. “Obviously I’d like my results to speak for that, but until we get going there’s no number one or number two. It’s whoever is doing the job on track.
“Again, I have confidence in myself that I’ll be getting some good results, but not much changes. I’ll keep the recipe I’ve got and just refine it.”
As for cutting the gap to Mercedes at the front? Ricciardo is unsure whether Red Bull can bridge the gap to the world champions, but thinks that Red Bull stands a better chance than many in doing so.
“Mercedes is probably the question mark,” the Australian said. “We know they’ll be strong, but are they going to remain nearly a second quicker, or can we close the gap to two-tenths or something?
“I think we can, and definitely I expect us to be chomping at their heels. I’m looking forward to some more wins, that’s what I’ve got my sights set on, and hopefully come November we’re in the championship hunt.”