Daniel Ricciardo is expecting his Red Bull team to put up a stronger challenge for the 2018 Formula 1 title in what is an important year for the Australian's career.
Entering his fifth season with the Milton Keynes outfit, this is the last on Ricciardo's current contract and the 28-year-old, frustrated at the lack of competitiveness despite five Grand Prix wins, is biding his time before committing his future again.
But, after seeing Red Bull make up almost all of the deficit to the leading Mercedes and Ferrari during 2017, the 'Honey Badger' expects that rapid development to continue with relative stability in the regulations.
"We should be able to fight more often, time will tell but I'm confident," he was quoted by Autosport.
"There is a good intensity in the team, but everyone is not getting too excited, we know there is work to do if we want to achieve what we want, so we all know we've got some desires to attack this year."
The most important factor in determining Red Bull's standing against their rivals this season will be engine progress from Renault, after ending the year still trailing their German and Italian counterparts in both performance and reliability.
Ricciardo played down those concerns, however, in a separate interview with Speed Week.
"It is clear that the reliability and efficiency are better now," he insisted.
A tendency to be off the pace at the beginning of a season has led to Adrian Newey and his technical team changing approach for this year, starting work on the RB14 earlier than usual and that also pleases the Aussie.
"Last year we realised already at the winter tests that we were behind Mercedes and Ferrari," he claimed. "This year we want to be in good shape from the beginning. We want to be on the podium in the first race."
Of course, doing that would secure the man from Perth a first official top three finish at his home race in Melbourne, with a second in 2014 later taken away due to a breach in the fuel flow rules.
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