Daniel Ricciardo has revealed that he is hoping to take Lewis Hamilton‘s place at the top of the Driver’s Championship standings in the near future, potentially by the end of next year if McLaren can continue their rapid progression towards the upper reaches of the grid. Ricciardo scored his first points with the historic British outfit at Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, crossing the line in seventh place, three places behind new team-mate Lando Norris.
The pair fought closely out of the blocks on the opening lap, but it was the 21-year-old that drew first blood to show his more experienced counterpart that he could be in for a tough battle over the course of the campaign.
Ricciardo’s arrival has introduced proven race-winning pedigree into McLaren’s ranks, with his most recent victory coming at Monaco during his final campaign with Red Bull three years ago, while he managed two podium finishes behind the wheel at Renault last season.
He has consistently spoken of his aim to fight for a Drivers’ Championship title before the end of his career, and with McLaren progressing on an upward trajectory over the last two years, and Mercedes losing ground to the chasing pack, the Perth native believes that his time to shine could be on the horizon.
“Obviously I’ve done a bit of moving around the last few years,” Ricciardo told the F1 YouTube channel.
“It’s not something I want to continue doing or plan on doing. It’s stressful and actually hard work so I feel like this team has already laid out a very nice foundation.
“And if I can build on what I can already see that they’ve got and personally achieve all of my goals here, then I think we can fight for a world title, hopefully already as soon as next year.”
Ricciardo rose to stardom during his time with Red Bull, who provided the popular Aussie with nine Grand Prix wins before he joined Renault in 2019, becoming their No 1 driver after falling behind Max Verstappen in the pecking order.
He struggled to achieve anything more than moderate success with the French outfit, with last year’s pair of third-placed finishes the best results of his short spell.
Looking ahead, Ricciardo is eyeing further shots at glory and wants to ensure that his presence is felt at McLaren, with Norris aiming to assert his dominance in his third season in F1 after the departure of Carlos Sainz.
“I definitely want to get my own name on the some of the trophies in the MTC [McLaren Technology Centre],” he added.
“That’s one aim and I also really want to look back on the year and know that I have made a difference within this team.
“The team has created something pretty awesome, particularly in the last 24 months, and I really want to feel like I’ve contributed to that and ride the wave that they are on.
“But I want to do some of the weightlifting and maybe say, ‘alright, this team has made another step because of my input, my drive and my determination’.”
McLaren CEO Zak Brown is a huge admirer of Ricciardo, who he believes can lead the team to great things over the course of the 31-year-old’s three-year contract.
The American claimed back in December that the ‘Honey Badger’ would trouble the likes of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso on an equal footing, suggesting that he has every chance of mounting a title bid before the end of his career.
“Fernando, I think, scores himself nine out of 10 on everything,” Brown told journalist Peter Windsor.
“Daniel is awesome over a single lap and awesome over a race distance. I see a lot of aggression in Daniel. Until you have them both in the same car at the same time I don’t think we’ll ever know.
“But I don’t think there’s anyone faster than Daniel at the moment, so I’ll say maybe it’s a tie, but I’m rooting for my guy now.”