Max Verstappen believes Daniel Ricciardo should stay at Red Bull and appreciates both the relationship and the challenge the Australian driver provides as a teammate.

While Verstappen signed a long-term Red Bull contract towards the end of last season, speculation has grown about whether his teammate will stay at the Milton Keynes-based squad beyond the end of 2018 when his current deal expires.

Ricciardo has remained guarded about his F1 future as he looks to assess his options but Verstappen feels his best choice is to stay at Red Bull alongside him as it begins its new engine partnership with Honda next season.

“The chances are very big for him to stay. He is already here so why wouldn’t he stay?” Verstappen said in Austria. “He is a great teammate to have. We have a lot of fun together but also once we are in the car we are pushing each other to a higher level.

“I enjoy working with him. He is one of the best teammates to have in the paddock in terms of relationship, but also one of the toughest ones. But I like competition so it is perfect to have him as a teammate.”

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Ricciardo has been strongly linked with a moves away from Red Bull since targeting a race seat which can challenge for F1 world titles from 2019.

The Australian driver shrugged off reports of interest from McLaren and Renault while he has also been previously connected to moves to both Ferrari and Mercedes.

Focusing on the Austrian Grand Prix, Verstappen feels Red Bull can target the podium at its home race in Spielberg but is wary of finding the right car set-up balance downforce levels to aid its straight line speed deficit.

“The problem is that you cannot really put an offset in terms of downforce because you still need a bit of downforce to go fast through the corners,” he said. “We know that we are going to be slow on the straights.

“It is a bit more tricky than in Canada or in France where you could just take a bit of wing off, and maybe on overall pace it is a little bit better. Here it is more difficult.”

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