No doubting Ricciardo now, says Jones

Mon Jul 28, 2014 8:49am EDT
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Put "baby-faced assassin" Daniel Ricciardo behind the wheel of a Mercedes and there would be no doubt he would take the Formula One title race to the wire, according to compatriot Alan Jones, Australia's last world champion.

The only driver to have beaten Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to the top of the podium this campaign, Ricciardo won a dramatic Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday to seal his second victory of the season, underlining his class with a high-quality drive and further shading Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel.

Ricciardo's success has raised Australian hopes of a first F1 title-holder since Jones's 1980 triumph and the former Williams driver said the expectation was justified.

"He's a contender, there's no doubt about it," the 67-year-old told Reuters in a phone interview.

"He's not a contender this year obviously because Mercedes have got the jump on everyone. Get him a good car next year. If you put that (Mercedes engine) in that bloody Red Bull, he would be a contender.

"Or get him a Mercedes, because he's proven he can qualify consistently in the top four. He can run up there with the best of them. He doesn't pile up the road or have any accidents."

After a two-year apprenticeship with feeder team Toro Rosso, Ricciardo has proved a revelation this season, mounting the podium five times, including a maiden win in Canada last month.

Sunday's win at Hungaroring put him third in the standings behind the Mercedes pair, 71 points adrift of Rosberg and 60 below Hamilton with eight races remaining.   Continued...

Winner Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates on the podium after the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit, near Budapest July 27, 2014.  REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo