Daniel Ricciardo feels Red Bull is on the cusp of challenging for race wins again once it brings its much vaunted engine upgrade online in Canada.
The former title winning team has enjoyed a positive start to the 2016 season in terms of pure pace compared with last year, but while it is yet to mount a regular challenge to Mercedes and Ferrari, its qualifying performance for the Spanish Grand Prix has underlined the potential in the RB12 package.
Indeed, with the Renault engine (badged as TAG Heuer) considered the weakest element of the car, the French firm's planned upgrade for the Canadian Grand Prix next month is being anticipated with keen interest.
With estimates of a mammoth six tenths jump in pace per lap – the margin to pole position for Ricciardo in Spain -, though the Australian plays down the extremity of the likely improvement, he feels favourable circuits like the Hungaroring will see Red Bull in Mercedes' range.
“I think there will be a little bit more but at some circuits it could be enough,” he said. “I don't think we're expecting six-tenths so we won't be quite there but it will put us closer at Monaco and Budapest and give us a real shot. We will be hanging it out.
“It is the first track of the year we have put on all of the downforce we have on the car and it shown as our strengths are coming back. We've shown as a team this year and today we've shown that we have a good car underneath us and it will be interesting at tight and twister circuits like Monaco it will be interesting and fun.
Starting third for the Circuit de Catalunya race having out-qualified the Ferraris, Ricciardo is optimistic he can maintain his position if he can get away with the Mercedes' at the start.
“I need to do what I've been doing this year and keep it up after driving well. I'd love to say we can fight with them [Mercedes] but hopefully we can hang with them, grab a slip stream to drag us into turn one and stay close.”