Webber: Ricciardo must focus on Verstappen


2018 sees a number of drivers out of contract at season end, among them Daniel Ricciardo.

While Red Bull has made it clear that it hopes to retain him, the popular Australian will be fearing that the team is looking to concentrate its efforts on Max Verstappen, much as it did before with Sebastian Vettel.

And while popular opinion suggests the Australian should seek out pastures new, with Toto Wolff making no secret of his desire to see Ricciardo at Mercedes, Mark Webber, who was the 'victim' of Red Bull's preference for Vettel, suggests that his countryman should put his plans for 2019 and beyond on hold and instead concentrate on beating his teammate.

"I think the best thing he can do is beat Max, that's the best thing he can do," said Webber at the weekend. "Which he knows, and he's going to do his best to do that.

"If he wants to try and have a crack at that for five-six months, then look at the options," he added.

"Red Bull will support the guy that's leading the championship and doing the business," said Webber, who had a number of controversial run ins when partnered with Vettel. "If that's Daniel, I reckon he's still in great shape there, to be honest, because he is a Red Bull product.

"I don't think Helmut would be disappointed to see Daniel as world champion," he continued. "But he loves Max as well. They're both his favourite guys. But if he's beating Max and Red Bull are flying again, why would he leave?

"At the end of the day, I don't think Dan's too bothered what colour the car is. He just wants to win. That's what he's aiming to do, and it's hard to win consistently. They don't hand them out. He's totally capable of it, but he's just got to find himself in a position where he can get that opportunity."

Asked about the prospect of Ricciardo heading to Mercedes to partner Lewis Hamilton, the Australian replied: "That is like a dog's balls, everyone can see that coming. There's an obvious link, they're both out of contract, he's a top-flight driver and there's a chance for a switch. I don't think Mercedes will be rushing to make a decision either, they're going to keep a good eye on Valtteri and see how he's performing, probably until Canada."

Both Red Bull drivers were plagued by reliability issues in 2017, Verstappen for much of the first half of the season, and Ricciardo in the final stages.

While the Australian finished fifth in the overall standings - pipped at the final race by Kimi Raikkonen following another engine issue - it was Verstappen who looked the more capable of challenging Mercedes and Ferrari had he not encountered his various technical issues and the over enthusiasm of others.

One area where the Australian was particularly weak was qualifying, and while this made his Sunday afternoons that little bit harder it did at least cement his reputation as king of the late brakers as he provided some of the most spectacular manoeuvres in a season which saw passes fall by 50% on 2016.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 06/02/2018
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