Daniel Ricciardo admits that it is up to him to earn the opportunity to replace countryman Mark Webber at Red Bull Racing next season.
Webber's pre-Silverstone announcement that he intended to retire from F1 and head to sportscars with Porsche at the end of the 2013 campaign has kick-started the 'silly season' rumour mill, with Ricciardo, Toro Rosso team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne and 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen emerging as the early frontrunners to partner Sebastian Vettel in 2014.
Ricciardo tipped his hand early in the British Grand Prix weekend, posting the fastest time in a damp opening practice session, but admits that there is still work to be done to become only the second member of Red Bull's development programme to move into a race-winning car.
“I've always said to myself, if I have a really strong year, then it would line me up well,” Ricciardo told The National
, “I mean, if I was to win the race this weekend, I would probably sign the contract on Sunday night, so it's in my hands.”
Ricciardo's claim to Webber's seat is weakened by his current championship standing, where he trails team-mate Vergne by six points having failed to match the Frenchman's recent form.
"Unfortunately I've had a pretty poor run in the last few races so that's definitely my concern,” he admitted in a separate Reuters
interview, “I haven't really come off a strong few [races] to give me bragging rights to say 'that's mine, everyone', so I've definitely got to focus on the next few weekends to remind everyone that I'm here to be successful.
"I think ideally, in the perfect world, [Red Bull] would love one of us juniors to go through and to do what Seb did. I think that's the real philosophy of the programme. I think they would love to see one of us really start to shine, [so] I've got to really make sure I get the next few races the way I want them to go and then at least I can say I've done all I did.
"The chance is definitely there. If I can get three great results, maybe exceed the expectations of the team then I don't see why it wouldn't put me in a good position for it. As long as I do all that and tick pretty big boxes, then I think I've got it all in my control."
In Raikkonen, too, Ricciardo faces some stiff opposition for the Red Bull seat, with the Finn many people's favourite to be installed alongside Vettel to ensure that the Milton Keynes team continues to field to proven point scorers in pursuit of the lucrative constructors' championship. Raikkonen is currently in the last year of his deal with Lotus and, despite team boss Eric Boullier's belief that he can retain the Finn for another year, it is thought that the lure of a proven title contender may be too much for the veteran to resist.