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Red Bull must hit the ground running in 2018, says Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
© XPB 

Daniel Ricciardo says that Red Bull can't afford another stuttering start to its world championship campaign in 2018.

The team initially struggled in the early races of this season. Problems with engine performance and reliability together with issues with its correlation instruments soon wrecked any chance of competing for the titles.

But the team did pick up over the course of the season. Daniel Ricciardo won in Azerbaijan, and Max Verstappen was victorious in Malaysia and Mexico.

"What we need to do for next year to have a chance is that we need to start the season stronger," insisted Ricciardo. "That's where we lost a lot of our momentum this year.

"At the beginning of the season, we were too far behind Mercedes and Ferrari," he told a media event in Baku this week. "We made a lot of progress, which was really good, so we need to continue that momentum."

Ricciardo is out of contract at the end of next year. Whether he stays at Red Bull or not beyond that may depend on how the team fares at the start of 2018. Even so, the gulf between Red Bull and its rivals remains a huge challenge.

"Unfortunately Mercedes has been really strong for the last four years," he agreed. "They have been the team to beat.

"We thought this year would be a chance for us to really challenge them. We challenged them some races but not enough to fight for the title.

"In the end myself and Max were fifth and sixth in the championship. We didn't come near to what we wanted."

Ricciardo said he wished that the cars didn't have such a big difference in performance. As things stood, there was little the driver alone could do to level the playing field.

"If we make it a bit more equal by bringing the driver in a bit more and taking the equipment out then that would be better," he suggested. "A 50-50 would be something more realistic in the near future and hopefully that's the case.

"Even from Lewis to the guy that's coming last, maybe the lap time says three seconds but the driver is maximum one second. We are all a lot closer than that.

"It would be great if we could all stay within one second with the equipment because then the racing would be pretty fun."

Asked which drivers he thought were the best on the current grid - himself excepted - Ricciardo first highlighted the new world champion, Lewis Hamilton.

"I respect him and take my hat off to him," He said. "As a driver he is very competitive.

"Obviously there's also Fernando [Alonso]," he continued. "But it's hard to say with Fernando the last few years because he hasn't had a top car to know. But I think everyone still believes he is one of the top drivers on the grid.

"These are the two names that will always get called up in this current group of drivers," he concluded. "My teammate Max is very strong as well, so there's more than two. But these are the established ones who are very well respected."

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