Daniel Ricciardo has admitted that he hopes Renault's promised upgrade for its beleaguered V6 turbo can at least put his Red Bull team on a par with Ferrari.
The Italian giant won the last race before F1's traditional summer break, and Ricciardo's former team-mate, Sebastian Vettel, remains in the title hunt with nine races remaining, but the Australian is keen to haul himself back into the reckoning, for the top spot on the podium if not necessarily this year's big prize.
Third place after an incident-filled Hungarian Grand Prix was a welcome boost for Ricciardo and Red Bull – which also had the pleasure of seeing Daniil Kvyat take second spot – but the Australian is looking further down the road, to the point when Renault, which has hinted at a revised V6 for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, can make RBR a regular challenger at the front of the field.
“Overall, the result from Budapest was great, but the big positive for us as a team was that the car was working well,” he noted, “Sure, we know the lack of power from the engine, but there have been times this year when the chassis has been underperforming as well. But the last few races, particularly Budapest, it has been 'if we can get it in the sweet spot, it's back to where it was last year'.
“It's a very good car and I think our understanding of where the sweet spot is is much better and I have confidence that we will find it more often than not. The car is coming a long way and we are getting a few updates here and there, which are helping…
On paper, if we gain the horsepower we should, it should put us in a good position. It should put us comfortably alongside Ferrari but, again, it is one of those things – even last year, we'd get updates and this and that which, on the dyno, would say one thing but, when we put it on the track, it could be something else, so I'll always downplay it a bit. I'd rather be pleasantly surprised than let down, so let's see. It could be a very big turning point in our season, and for next year as well, so I guess time will tell for now. Fingers crossed it's a rocket!”
Despite not having the best car last season, Ricciardo won three times but this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix marks the anniversary of his last trip to the top step. Although the memories fade with each passing race, however, the Aussie insists that he has not lost motivation or desire.
“I guess it's been a year now since I won an F1 race, so it goes quick, but I have great memories from here last year,” he recalled, “You just have to lower your expectations. I understand now where we are this year and so I'm not getting too excited by the thought of winning every race, but you find other ways of getting motivated. I still have a strong fire inside my stomach and, if anything, that is getting stronger with each race that passes where I don't have a chance of winning or even getting on the podium. At least spraying some champagne at the last race was good – it got a few cobwebs out and that was a nice little relief – but you have to just keep enjoying driving and then, hopefully, the results come.”
Ricciardo admits that his progress through the field in Hungary gave him a feeling of déjà vu as the opportunity to reprise another of his 2014 victories arose.
“When I got onto the back of Nico [Rosberg] and he got onto the back of Seb, it was the same cars – it was a Ferrari, Merc and Red Bull – and I sort of got those excited feelings in my stomach and I was ready to go,” he smiled, “I really thought it was going to happen but, at the same time, I knew it wasn't going to be given to me – I needed to make it happen. For sure, I tried and we know the outcome, but it was worth a try and I'm still happy with the third.”