Red Bull ‘will be a lot closer’ to Mercedes
AUSSIE Formula One ace Daniel Ricciardo has sparked hopes of a podium finish in Melbourne after a record-breaking pre-season testing display in Barcelona this morning.
Ricciardo sent a message to his F1 rivals ahead of this month's Melbourne Grand Prix, setting an unofficial track record at the Circuit de Catalunya.
The Red Bull star set the fastest lap time on a recently resurfaced track, clocking 1:18.047 on his first day on course for the second week of testing.
The feat aboard his RB14 under sunny, blue skies outpaced reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton (1:18.400) and his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas (1:18.560).
Ricciardo said it had given him confidence heading into the first race of the season at Albert Park.
"I think we can fight towards the front spots,'' he said.
And he hoped it could help end Mercedes recent domination of Formula One, starting at his home race.
"Now it looks like we are close,'' he said.
"I still don't really know where Ferrari is, I'm quite confident Mercedes is still just maybe in front of us.
"Ferrari I'm not sure but I think we're going to be a lot closer than last year.''
Ricciardo clocked his fastest time in new "hyper soft" Pirelli tyres which will not be used in Melbourne but are likely to add speed to the likes of Monaco, Singapore and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix this year.
He also busted out the most laps of the day (165), in a big tick for reliability of a Red Bull racer which was anything but last season.
His best lap time topped the previous mark of 1:18.339 set by Felipe Massa in 2008 at the Circuit in the hills outside Barcelona and outpointed the 1:18.634 put down by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen last year.
The feat had him fist pumping friends in the Red Bull hospitality suite at lunch.
While fastest man on course today, Ricciardo said Mercedes remained " top dog at the moment but I don't actually think we're far off''.
"I still think we obviously need to find a bit more to realistically match Mercs at the moment but I don't think we're too far behind,'' he said.
After failing to finish the race in Melbourne last year due to mechanical issues, Ricciardo he was feeling good about making amends.
"It looks pretty positive for now,'' he said.
"Reliability is solid.
"We planned 160, 170 laps at the start of the day and I was like 'that sounds optimistic'.
"But we did it.''
He also joked his odds of winning the world championship at odds of 10-1 with some bookmakers may be worth a cheeky flutter.
"I'm not personally a betting man, I know a lot of my mates are,'' he joked.
"If they're listening - throw a cheeky 75k on it.''
The final day of pre-season testing will be staged on Friday before teams pack up and fly to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix from March 22-25.