Daniel Ricciardo says he will watch the burgeoning battle between Mercedes and Ferrari with interest this year, though he says he would be surprised to see the pecking order vary much from that of 2015.
Though his Red Bull Racing team has offered modest expectations for the opening portion of the season as it reluctantly perseveres with Renault power – under the TAG Heuer banner -, Ricciardo and team-mate Daniil Kvyat have shown encouraging pace in the new RB12.
While this week's four-day test at the Circuit de Catalunya is expected to prove more conclusive in terms of the pecking order, Ricciardo says he doesn't expect much to have changed compared with the latter stages of the 2015 season.
“Realistically the season should start more or less how it finished,” he said. “I am assuming Mercedes and Ferrari are the two teams with the targets, so that is top four. Going off last year Williams is fifth and sixth, so we should be around Williams are just behind them.
“Force India look pretty good, Toro Rosso on paper should do well. I don't want to say we will be tenth because we could be better than tenth
Even so, Ricciardo believes the order could evolve as the season progresses, not least whether Ferrari can get on terms with Mercedes, but also whether Williams can maintain the top three position it has consolidated for the past two seasons.
“Between Mercedes and Ferrari the question is can Ferrari close the gap, those last few tenths. I think that will be an interesting battle. Behind that, I think Williams should start where they left off, but whether they can maintain that over the course of the season I am not sure. They have been there the last couple of seasons, but whether they can continue is probably a question mark.”