Daniel Ricciardo comes clean on Mercedes link amid bold podium call

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Aussie star Daniel Ricciardo has neither confirmed, nor denied his interest in Lewis Hamilton’s vacated Mercedes seat, claiming he’s “not looking too far ahead”.

But while the seat remains free, the 34-year-old has also used the speculation to redouble his commitment to his current team, claiming Red Bull’s junior team is set to turn a corner.

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Hamilton shocked the F1 when he revealed he was trading the Silver Arrows for Ferrari earlier this month in a bombshell defection that had the sport stunned.

Suddenly, one of the most coveted seats on the grid, a seat which saw the Brit claim six of his seven world titles, was free.

And the speculation began immediately.

Ricciardo was among the names tossed up immediately but since, nearly the entire grid, from world champions Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso to Aussie star Oscar Piastri and even rookies, have been linked to the seat as the F1 prepares for the silliest of silly seasons to fill the seat.

Ricciardo is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid and has long coveted one of the seats at the top teams, moving from Red Bull to Renault after seats at Mercedes and Ferrari were already full.

However, as a 14-year veteran of the sport, Ricciardo dealt with the question perfectly when asked at the Visa Cash App RB launch.

“I’m definitely not looking that far ahead,” Ricciardo said. “At this part of my career, looking ahead feels a bit like a year closer to the end. So it’s more reason for me to be there now and really take it race by race.

“I guess in their (Mercedes’) position, they are in no rush. So they will judge everyone, how they are doing, the driver market, whatever. So I think this is a good position for them.

“Part of me is also happy not to be involved in all this crazy stuff, especially this early in the season. So if the silly season happens without me, that’s fine with me at this point.”

Although Ricciardo could be in Mercedes’ crosshairs, he’s also being heavily linked with stepping up to the top Red Bull team once again with the pressure all on Sergio Perez yet again ahead of the final year of his deal.

F1 Insider reported last week that Ricciardo was signed for Red Bull beyond the 2024 season.

But as we all know, and Ricciardo in particular (McLaren anyone), professional sporting contracts are hardly worth the paper they’re written on.

Red Bull won the driver’s championship via Verstappen and the constructor’s championship by more than double Mercedes’ tally in second (860 to 409), but Red Bull still wanted more.

Verstappen won 19 of the 22 races, finishing second in two more, while his worst result was fifth in Singapore.

Perez on the other hand won two races, finished second in four more, third three-times and as low as 16th in Monaco.

The Mexican’s consistency has been under the microscope and he survived a mountain of speculation in 2023.

So Ricciardo’s aim is to put as much pressure on as possible.

Speaking to F1.com, Ricciardo said he believed the team has taken “another step up”, teasing a possibility of podiums for the recently rebranded Visa Cash App RB team.

“It’s no longer just a platform for Red Bull Racing, it’s a time for us to fight at the front of the midfield,” he said.

“I like what’s happened, the changes that have taken place. There’s something about the team, the mindset is a bit different, kind of like a point to prove. It’s cool. It’s fun.

“You have to aim high, but being in this sport so long, you want to remain realistic as you don’t want to end up ultimately disappointed.

“Top-fives should be a target and if we get into that position, maybe some podiums present themselves.

“Of course we want to win but … I think we made steps last year, let’s make a few more steps.

“Do I think top-five results are on the table, and could they be on the table in the first half of the season? I’d like to think so.”

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