Ricciardo's clear warning on Red Bull future
DANIEL Ricciardo has long proved he is one of the standout drivers in the Formula 1 paddock, as was highlighted by his showing during the Italian Grand Prix two weekends ago when he went from 16th on the grid to a fourth-place finish.
On talent alone Ricciardo is a championship contender. The problem, however, is the car carrying him being unable to provide the pace he needs - the frustration of which seems to be building towards breaking point.
Red Bull is third in the constructors' championship, a long way behind Ferrari in second. It hasn't come close to matching the Scuderia or championship leader Mercedes for pace.
"I went through that impatient phase for sure, and I am still bordering that - because I don't want to leave F1 without a championship," Ricciardo told motorsport.com.
While he is committed to Red Bull until the end of 2018, the always-smiling Australian hinted Red Bull must prove its championship credentials if it wants to ensure he stays with the team beyond next year.
"I thought we would be in with a really good shot this year, but it hasn't turned out like that. We have still managed to get podiums but we haven't realistically been in the championship hunt so it really needs to happen with Red Bull next year - at least from my point of view," Ricciardo said.
"I've been here for quite a few years now and I think next year we need to make a bigger step than we did this year, to really convince me that I can win with them."
The news shouldn't come as a major shock as only last month Ricciardo, tongue planted firmly in cheek, joked to Red Bull co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz: "Unless you pay me $10 million, I'm leaving."
That came off the back of Mateschitz stating he'd like to see 19-year-old Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen become the youngest world champion in F1 history.
When any team is competing for the championship, the relationship between their two drivers is always a point of contention and with Red Bull potentially leaning towards the young Dutchman, Ricciardo could soon be driving elsewhere.
During the 2017 season Ricciardo has shown he is more than deserving of being the team's No.1 man and while Verstappen has endured some tough luck, Ricciardo looks the more complete driver.
The 28-year-old went on a run of five consecutive podium finishes earlier this year and bounced back from the summer break in style with a P3 at the Belgian Grand Prix before his impressive run at Monza.
He finished third in his debut season with the energy drink team in 2014 before woes with engine supplier Renault contributed to a disappointing result in 2015, coming eighth in the drivers' championship.
He stormed back to life in 2016, finishing third, and while sitting fourth at the moment, will be hopeful of another top-three finish at season's end.
With the ultimatum thrown down to Red Bull, it is now up to team boss Christian Horner and chief technical officer Adrian Newey to deliver Ricciardo a car that will put him in the hunt for a championship next season.
After news dropped of Valtteri Bottas signing an extension to remain at Mercedes, all three top teams - Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull - will go into 2018 with unchanged line-ups.
But if things don't improve for Ricciardo at Red Bull, we could be seeing him behind the wheel of a new team in 2019.
"Do I want to win with them? Absolutely. I think that would complete the story as well. (Ferrari star and former Red Bull driver) Seb (Vettel) got to complete it - he is the only guy. So my heart would love to. But we will see.
"I want an opportunity to be able to win week in and week out, while I believe I am still at the top."
Adding to the intrigue of Ricciardo's future are comments he made last month where he expressed his frustration at not having a title-winning car at his disposal.
"Since 2014 I felt if I was in a Mercedes I believed I could have won and last year as well. I definitively believe in myself," Ricciardo told ESPN.
"I've been with Red Bull for quite a few years now and the difference is when I joined Red Bull racing they were the champions, so in my mind I was getting into the best car in the grid.
"But when he (Verstappen) joined we'd already fallen away a bit so in his mind the expectation had already dropped so if anything for me it should be stronger - the want and the need for this (a title-winning car)."
Verstappen also hinted his future at Red Bull may not be secure if his woes continue. The youngster and his father Jos - a former F1 driver - both said after the Belgian GP they're not sure what lies in store if Red Bull and Renault can't organise a package capable of delivering sustained success.
Jos said "this won't last if things keep going like this" and Verstappen revealed he'd spoken to Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko to express his dissatisfaction at the season so far.
"I've spoken with Helmut again and told him that I'm not happy," Verstappen told Dutch TV show Peptalk. "The fun fades away.
"You sign a deal with Red Bull and you want a winning package. We don't have that at the moment.
"I've let them know I'm not happy, just like after the previous DNF, but it's only getting worse of course."