Daniel Ricciardo says he expects to be on the F1 grid with Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2013, having seen ambitions of replacing compatriot Mark Webber at Red Bull Racing dashed in the wake of the British Grand Prix.
The Australian youngster, who is only now moving into a second full season of F1 having joined HRT for the second half of 2012, had been tabbed as a possible replacement for Webber should he decide to leave RBR or hang up his helmet for good, but saw the door close - at least for the time being - when Webber celebrated his second British GP win with another one-year extension on his contract.
Ricciardo, however, insists that he is not disappointed at missing the chance to move into a race-winning car, claiming that his season - and that currently being enjoyed by second-overall Webber - were not likely to see him promoted.
"Not in a negative way, but I never thought it would happen, at least for next season," he told the West Australian
newspaper, "I knew there was a lot to be done, but I had 20 races to get through this year, to prove that I could be something extraordinary to take that seat."
After a decent start to his race role with STR - he had previously been a reserve and test driver for the Faenza-based squad - which yielded ninth and twelfth places in the opening rounds of 2012, Ricciardo's results tailed off as the year progressed, without any further addition to his championship tally. As a result, he lies a lowly 19th overall, one spot behind rookie team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne and ahead only of the 'division three' drivers at Caterham, Marussia and HRT, none of whom have scored.
"We realistically haven't been good enough to finish in the top ten on Sundays," Ricciardo admitted as the season heads into its traditional mid-summer break, "We've been a little bit left behind, which obviously hasn't been what we planned but, if [other teams] have made a step during the season, then we're hoping we can make one, too, and find something.
"It's a really good time to gather a few thoughts, myself and the team, and maybe we can get something going for the second half. It's long and there's a lot of fly-aways as well, so I think we'll have different environments that we'll be racing in and maybe that can influence us with better results."
Given Red Bull's propensity for swinging its axe without warning when it comes to its secondary driver line-up, Ricciardo and Vergne could be forgiven for thinking that they are treading thin ice for the rest of the season, but the Australian believes that he has done enough to ensure a reprieve for 2013.
"I don't think I've done a bad job," he insisted, "I don't think they're searching for someone to replace me yet, unless the season goes pretty poorly from here. But if I continue what I'm doing or even improve a bit - and that would be nice - I estimate I would stay here.
"Sometimes I think we've put in a real strong weekend and maybe it hasn't been good enough for 13th place, but that's how it is - last year, I was racing hard to finish 20th. It's never going to be easy and you've got to be patient, have faith that the car will get better. I will improve as well and, with that, we'll get a good result again soon."