Young Australian F1 contender Daniel Ricciardo will have his eyes on the prize at this weekend's F1 opener in Melbourne... like every other driver on the track.
But, while Ricciardo might have his head in the clouds at the thought of a podium finish, his feet are firmly on the ground when it comes to more realistic goals: beating teammate Jean-Eric Vergne.
Speaking in Melbourne this week, Ricciardo admitted that merely matching Vergne won't be enough to take him to the next step of his F1 career, which is still far from secure.
"I definitely want to try and blow it apart if I can, do something special," Ricciardo said. “Nothing’s really changed between us, we’ve been competitive now for a few years and the relationship’s become even more competitive."
"A lot’s on the line. I don’t think any teammates are great friends – Mark [Webber] will probably answer to that question as well! It’s just how it is and how probably it should be; if you’re too close with someone you’re not going to go 100 percent against them so it’s good to have that fighting spirit.”
Ricciardo's rise to a regular seat in the top racing formula has given Australian fans extra hope for a local champion, but the young gun admits he has a long way to go.
“I definitely think I can push higher this year. Unfortunately you also need the package to do it as well – you can do all you want but the car does play a part," Ricciardo said.
“I definitely feel as a team we’re going to improve this year and myself, with extra confidence, more experience, these things will naturally improve as well. I’m coming in with a bit more anger, I guess, a bit more determination to make sure I’m getting the most out of it. So we’ll do what we can to get better results.”
He added that while he is confident that Toro Rosso has improved since last year, the rest of the field is hardly standing still.
"I think we have a bigger step to make to really get in amongst that midfield we’re fighting with. I think we fell a bit behind them last year for the majority. I think we’ve improved but we’ve got make sure we’ve improved more than them to get back up to their level.”
Teammate Vergne said this week that he is every bit as hungry for success, acknowledging that he and Ricciardo are fighting for the same opportunity: a ride with a top-tier team.
Asked if he has a chance of joining the senior Red Bull team in 2014, Vergne told RMC Sport: "It's too early to tell.
"Nobody is saying that Webber will retire in 2014. Maybe he will win races, maybe even the championship. For now, there are too many 'ifs' about 2014," he added.
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