JEREZ, Spain (Reuters) - Daniel Ricciardo is determined to be more than a “one-hit wonder” as he prepares to take the hottest seat in Formula One as quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel’s team mate at Red Bull.
In fact, even the one hit has yet to come for the smiling Australian who graduated from sister team Toro Rosso following the departure of compatriot Mark Webber to sportscar racing with Porsche.
The Perth-born driver has yet to finish higher than seventh in a Formula One career that started in 2011 with now-defunct HRT but he now stands on the cusp of the big time with the dominant team of the last four years.
“I haven’t set any expectations in terms of where I’d like to finish,” the 24-year-old told reporters at the first pre-season test in Jerez, where he is due to get behind the wheel of the new RB10 on Thursday, when asked about his targets.
”I’d love to get a win, to stand on the top step would be amazing. But just to go through the year, continuing to learn and to try and match Seb at least at some point.
“And to really set myself up at the front of the grid, not to be a one-hit wonder so to speak,” he grinned.
Vettel, only two years older, has won the last four championships in a row and showed last year that he can be a ruthless competitor.
His win in Malaysia, when he passed Webber for the lead despite the team asking him to hold station to save fuel, has gone down in Formula One lore for the ignored instruction ‘Multi 21’ - which meant car 1 should stay behind car 2.
Ricciardo may be a de facto number two but he has already made sure he will not have that number on his car by selecting the number three instead.
Asked whether there had been any multi-21 discussions since he joined, the Australian grinned again and said Vettel had been very approachable and friendly.
“It hasn’t been broached or talked about, at least not since I joined Red Bull. We’re going to be good for that,” he replied.
Pushed on whether he saw himself as a number two, the smile grew even broader: “Mr Negative!,” he replied.
”Obviously I don’t expect to be treated like God - I‘m not the world champion - but at the same time I’ve been reassured I‘m going to get the equal side, the same length of straw, whatever you want to say.
“But I’ve got to earn my place in the team as well. It’s nice to know we’re going to have equal stuff but I definitely want, after some time, to let the team know that I‘m capable to hopefully get some top results as well,” he said.
Ricciardo said he was in a good place physically, having shed some four kilos compared to this time last year, and excited about starting the season in front of his home Melbourne crowd in March.
The year ahead, he said, would be all about learning from a man he recognized as one of the greats and he was not about to big himself up.
“Hopefully the results can do more of the talking but for now I don’t really have anything to back up my talk so I will stay humble,” he said.
“It’s a huge opportunity for me to learn... it’s a bit of a privilege I guess to have a four time world champion alongside me, to be able to see his data and what he’s doing on track and to try and better myself learning off him,” he said.
“I’d love to be as competitive as soon as possible but I’ll just take it step-by-step and learn what I can from Seb.”
Editing by John O'Brien