Former Formula 1 driver turned pundit Mark Webber believes fellow countryman Daniel Ricciardo needs to concentrate on beating Max Verstappen in the first half of 2018 if he wants to maximise his options for next year.
This season will be crucial for the Australian, who is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of it, and the five-time Grand Prix winner has already made it clear he will not be rushing to make what he sees as the most important decision of his racing career.
With seats both at Mercedes and Ferrari potentially up for grabs, Webber believes Ricciardo's best chance to put himself in contention at those two teams is to be ahead of perhaps the most highly-rated talent on the grid.
“I think the best thing he can do is beat Max,” he told Fox Sports Australia. "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.”
Though Kimi Raikkonen is in the twilight of his career at Ferrari, the most likely alternative for Ricciardo seems to be Mercedes, where Valtteri Bottas is only contracted for this season and is under pressure to perform after falling away slightly in the second half of 2017.
“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," Webber continued.
“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.”
The internal situation at Red Bull will be another deciding factor the 28-year-old has to consider, with four seasons of failing to close the gap to the front and the ever-growing presence of Verstappen alongside.
But the Dutchman is also wary of the lack of competitiveness in recent years, though expects to get an indication of where the team stand with the RB14 soon after stepping behind the wheel.
"You can understand if a car is good or not already on the first day of testing," Max claimed. "But this is not the goal.
"The most important thing is to get reliability in testing so you can determine the driving characteristics of the new car."
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