Aussie Mark Webber says Daniel Ricciardo initial focus this season should be on beating team mate Max Verstappen rather than on his future.
The 28-year-old, whose contract with Red Bull Racing runs out at the end of this year, is unwilling to commit to the Milton Keynes outfit until he gets a firm assessment of the team's 2018 car and his subsequent title chances.
Ricciardo is also aware of an opportunity which may arise with Mercedes for 2019, if Valtteri Bottas' contract with the Silver Arrows team isn't extended.
Webber however believes the Honey Badger's first priority should be to beat his team mate from the outset this year, and wait until the middle of the season before weighing his 2019 options.
"I think the best thing he can do is beat Max , which he knows, and he's going to do his best to do that," Webber told the media as he visited Bathurst last weekend.
"He wants to try and have a crack at that for five or six months, then look at the options.
"I don't think Mercedes will be rushing to make a decision either; they're going to keep a good eye on Valtteri and see how he's performing, probably until Canada. That's like dog's balls – everyone can see that coming.
"There's an obvious link – they're both out of contract, he's a top-flight driver, and there's a chance for a switch."
Webber reckons that if Red Bull deliver a winning car and Ricciardo keeps his team mate at bay, a change of scenery would be wrong.
"If he's beating Max and Red Bull are flying again, why would he leave?
"At the end of the day, I don't think Dan's too bothered what colour the car is. He just wants to win. That's what he's aiming to do, and it's hard to win consistently. They don't hand them out.
"He's totally capable of it, but he's just got to find himself in a position where he can get that opportunity."
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner suggested last year that he would like to build the team around Max Verstappen. But Webber believes Ricciardo is just as important to the outfit as the 20-year-old Grand Prix winner.
"Red Bull will support the guy that's leading the championship and doing the business," contends Webber.
"If that's Daniel, I reckon he's still in great shape there, to be honest. Because he is a Red Bull product.
"I don't think Helmut would be disappointed to see Daniel as World Champion, but he loves Max as well. They're both his favourite guys."