An upbeat Daniel Ricciardo is hopeful his fourth-place at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix isn’t a one-off this season.
The local hope was left beaming after clawing his way from eighth on the grid and fighting for a podium spot at Melbourne’s Albert Park on Sunday.
He’d only been aiming for a top-six finish, but found himself battling with the frontrunners Mercedes and Ferrari after the race was suspended following a terrifying crash involving Fernando Alonso.
Nico Rosberg won the race ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, with Sebastian Vettel in third.
“It’s a better result than we expected,” said Ricciardo.
“I’m happy with that, but more than anything I’m happy with the pace we had. We were still not as quick as Ferrari or Mercedes, but at parts of the race we weren’t really far off.”
The 26-year-old said it was “refreshing” to be able to pass cars around the unforgiving circuit.
He enjoyed lengthy stints in second and third, giving him a sniff at his first official podium on home soil – having had his first stripped in 2014.
“We were sitting in a podium spot towards the end and I was hoping the tyres would last, but I knew they weren’t really going to hold on for too much longer and we had to pit again,” he said.
“I was hoping maybe Vettel and Lewis would have a bit of a battle at the front, but anyways, fourth is still a really good result.
“Our genuine pace is good and that’s encouraging for the upcoming races.”
Only twice last season did Ricciardo get a better result, a third in Hungary and second in Singapore.
The unreliability of their Renault engine caused grief at Red Bull, but to start the season with a bang will give the team a mighty boost heading into 2016, Ricciardo believes.
“All the team is smiling and it’s good,” he said.
“It’s good to see that spirit in the team. Obviously last year was a bit up and down, so to come out swinging here it’s awesome and obviously for me a little bit of icing on the cake to be at home.”