MILTON KEYNES, England (Reuters) - Daniel Ricciardo reckons he can take one title off Lewis Hamilton this year -- and mount a proper crack at the Briton’s Formula One crown as well -- after being best of the rest to Mercedes in 2014.
The smiling Australian is set to appear on the popular Top Gear television program’s ‘star in a reasonably priced car’ competition next month, with double world champion Hamilton setting the lap record two years ago in a Suzuki Liana.
“It’s been a while since I’ve heard people say ‘When are you going to go on Top Gear?”, the Red Bull driver told reporters on Tuesday after taking part in a team event on an indoor ski slope.
“So the time has come...I believe Lewis has got the crown at the moment so it would be nice to take at least one title off him,” he grinned.
Whether he can take the more meaningful one remains to be seen, with Mercedes winning 16 of 19 races last year and again the team to beat, but Ricciardo will try his best.
The only driver other than Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to win in 2014, and now the main man at the former champions following Sebastian Vettel’s departure to Ferrari, the Perth-born driver hoped Red Bull could close the gap.
Asked for his main aim in the season starting in Melbourne on March 15, he replied: ”Win more races and hopefully more results in a title fight, a proper one.
“I was hanging on by a string last year for a bit, but a realistic one this year would be good.”
Ricciardo was the revelation of 2014, his first year alongside four-times champion Vettel at Red Bull but the team had a difficult start to the new V6 turbo era as Renault struggled with reliability.
They still finished strongly as overall runners-up and, with Renault allowed to carry out limited improvements during the season and no major changes otherwise, the gap should narrow further.
”Everyone is going to improve, that’s a fact,“ said Ricciardo. ”But you’d like to think that Mercedes’ room for improvement is smaller than everyone else’s because I think they made so much of it last year.
“I hope I‘m right, I hope they don’t have another 50 percent step on top of what they’ve got but I think there’s more room for us and Ferrari to make up that gap.”
Editing by Ed Osmond