Daniel Ricciardo says he doesn't expect Red Bull to be in the battle for victory at his home event in Melbourne and believes the 2016 order will match the final rounds of last season.
The Australian driver has enjoyed another positive day with strong reliability from the RB12 Red Bull TAG-Heuer challenger as he produced 134 untroubled laps with a best lap time of 1m 25.235s.
Focusing on race simulations, pit stop practices and setup Ricciardo is confident the new car picks up where the team left off last season but is still unsure if Red Bull has produced enough performance gains to close the gap on Ferrari and Mercedes.
Ricciardo feels Red Bull is likely to be in a scrap with Williams and Force India for the 2016 season opener and won't be able to appreciate any bigger steps in performance until F1 begins its European stint in May.
“It will probably be similar to the end of last year,” Ricciardo said. “I expect us to be close with the Williams and Force India for now. The question is how far ahead Mercedes and Ferrari are.
“We have more understanding, more experience and better execution than last year. The whole team has given us a lot of confidence that we will find bigger steps with the power unit. They have told us to be conservative for the first few races and not expect too much until we get back to Barcelona and Monaco where we can get a big step to get closer to the front.”
Ricciardo hands the RB12 back to team-mate Daniil Kvyat tomorrow before returning for his final day of pre-season testing on Friday.
“So far my three days of testing have been positive, one more day and then Melbourne but so far it has been good,” he added.