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Ricciardo: Red Bull can take hope from Ferrari’s recent turnaround

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Daniel Ricciardo will head into the new Formula 1 season with few expectations and no assurances over the updates provided to Red Bull by engine supplier Renault following a difficult 2015 campaign.

Ricciardo scored just two podium finishes last year as Red Bull spent much of the year struggling to match its rivals for pace, largely thanks to the issues with its power unit.

Renault will continue to supply Red Bull this year, albeit with power units rebadged as TAG Heuer, and expectations at the team are for a better quality of engine that can propel both Ricciardo and teammate Daniil Kvyat up the grid.

When asked by MotorSportsTalk if Red Bull could take hope from Ferrari’s turnaround in fortunes and progress with its power unit between 2014 and 2015, Ricciardo said the team could, but with some caution over the promises made by Renault.

“I think we can. I guess the question is when. I’d like to think by the time we get to Europe we should be pretty competitive,” Ricciardo said.

“Getting a lot closer to Ferrari and ahead of Williams, but it’s one of those things.

“Last year we were supposed to have updates pretty regularly and they didn’t come on time, and when they did come they weren’t really giving us what we wanted.

“For that, I’m going to be quite reserved with my expectations. I think realistically it has to be better and I think it will.”

Ricciardo did tentatively set his sights on taking a fourth grand prix victory across the course of the 2016 season, feeling that Renault has more room for improvement than its rivals.

“At the end of the season, a victory,” Ricciardo said when asked what he hoped for in 2016.

“I’d love to say more but one would be a good start. Last year we just got two podiums. One victory should then mean a few podiums along the way. Victory in Monaco would be alright.

“Don’t get me wrong, a win is what I’d hope for. I say that thinking the season is long. If it comes, I don’t think it’s going to come straightaway. I think it has to be better, it’s just how much better again.

“First few races, I think it’ll be more or less like last year, but once we get into the European season we should start to really develop more. There’s a lot of room for improvement with the power unit, more than I believe Mercedes or Ferrari have.

“For that, if we can get the right sort of ingredients behind it, we should see a bigger step. I think it will come. We’ve obviously had a few years now of these power units so whatever got misunderstood last year, I think there’s been enough time to understand it for this year.”

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).