Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo has admitted that he heads into his second Australian Grand Prix still unsure of exactly where the team fits into F1's pecking order.
With winter testing providing its usual mix of results, with true potential masked by different programmes and reliability worries, Ricciardo knows that he could find himself anywhere in the midfield group in Melbourne this weekend, but clearly hopes to be able to improve on Toro Rosso's form from the end of 2012, where it faded from promising early season performance.
“I don't know,” he replied when asked what the team could expect from the Australian round, “We're probably not afraid of what the weekend is going to be. We're probably more excited. [Testing] was a little bit frustrating at times, so I think we're excited about what it's going to bring here - I'm sure it's going to better.
“[We're] looking forward to it more than anything else. There are still some answers that need to be found, [but] we're all in the same boat, so I think that's going to make it exciting.”
With an unchanged line-up and both drivers still hoping to be considered by the senior Red Bull team in coming seasons, Ricciardo knows that he will be under scrutiny once again in 2013, but he believes that he can use the travails of last year to his advantage.
“Obviously, I'll try and take the experience I learned from last year and bring it into this season,” he confirmed, “[There's] a bit of extra confidence and whatnot, [so I'll] just try to get some better results and start to creep up the order a bit. That's really the plan. You always want to try to beat the team-mate. That's always there, but I'm definitely focused on myself and just doing the usual, not making any dramatic changes.”
A year ago, team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne almost broke into the top ten in qualifying while Ricciardo started from the outside of row five in his first race for STR, and the Australian would settle for the same again, despite suggestions that he may want to preserve his tyres for race day rather than chasing a decent grid slot.
“Obviously, if I was in the position to [choose], I would definitely go for starting at the front,” he admitted, “Starting in the mid-pack and taking that risk to save tyres is putting yourself in a bit more of a tight situation on the first lap with more cars around [you]. If you're able to fight for the front row, you go for it - that's the logical one for me.”