Desire for respect drives Ricciardo
Desire for respect drives Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo says winning the respect of the five world champions vying for this year's Formula One title is his immediate goal as he prepares for a baptism of fire at next week's Australian Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old is facing the biggest week of his life at Albert Park, with his first full-time drive for Red Bull coinciding with a home grand prix where he will be bombarded with public interest as the sole Australian driver following Mark Webber's retirement.

The West Australian must also find a way to be competitive against the likes of Ferrari's champion pairing Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen despite being saddled with a new car that has underperformed badly during pre-season testing.

Ricciardo said proving his mettle to the title challengers, including former champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, would be his biggest challenge in Melbourne, not dealing with the exposure.

He said he was confident of being a surprise packet and not just the team's No.2 driver behind teammate Sebastian Vettel.

"I'd definitely like to (shock)," Ricciardo said.

"I'm not expecting to come in and dominate or anything like that. I obviously respect Seb and what he is and what he's done, but I'd really love to take the challenge up to him.

"I think I can do that in the first half of the season and really establish myself with the front of the field, with all the current world champions. To be a driver they look at week-in, week-out and know 'he'll be up there', that's something I'd love to achieve early on."

Ricciardo has a highest finish of seventh to his name in 50 F1 appearances, albeit with junior team Toro Rosso and now-defunct backmarker HRT.

Vettel has achieved four world titles and 39 race wins, despite being just two years older than his new teammate.

Ricciardo knows his place in the pecking order, but isn't about to settle for second best.

"It all comes down to confidence and belief at the end of the day," he said.

"I believe in my ability.

"I'm really excited about Melbourne - I always am. It is a circuit I enjoy driving on, but the obvious boost is the home crowd. To start the season there, it's like a double hit of excitement.

"I won't do too much talking before the race in terms of wanting to get on the podium, this or that. But hopefully Sunday works out well there and we'll do a bit of talking after the race."

Red Bull's hierarchy have said Ricciardo would be given as many as five races to get up to speed with Vettel.

Senior motorsport adviser Helmut Marko has also publicly guaranteed a three-year contract for Ricciardo in an indication Red Bull are willing to stick by their young protege.

Despite the grace period, Ricciardo said he owed the team silverware for the time and money invested in him.

He was signed to Red Bull's junior driver program seven years ago and is the only racer other than Vettel to be promoted to the senior outfit.

"If I'm expecting anything of myself, it's to get up and get going quickly," Ricciardo said.

"Obviously if I'm successful we all win and that's the plan."

The West Australian

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