Australian Daniel Ricciardo is on the hit-list of all leading Formula One teams, retired racer David Coulthard says.
Coulthard believes Ricciardo is a champion-in-waiting, but the wait will continue until he gets the right car.
“He’s the real deal,” Coulthard said in Melbourne on Thursday.
“Unfortunately he doesn’t quite have the car right now. Chassis-wise, aerodynamically, Red Bull have a great package. But they just don’t have the power plant right now.”
Coulthard, a winner of 13 grands prix, said Ricciardo would have to be patient in waiting for the right opportunity.
“He’s a world champion in waiting. It’s just a question of when that opportunity comes along. He has to be a bit patient right,” he said.
“He is on the hit-list of all the top teams, there is no question.
“And (Red Bull Racing owner) Dietrich Mateschitz has always maintained that if a driver doesn’t want to stay, then he would never hold them back.”
Some pundits believe Ricciardo, who predicts more midfield finishes in the F1 season that begins in Melbourne from Friday, is destined to join Ferrari, possibly next year.
But Ricciardo’s strained relationship with Ferrari ace Sebastian Vettel while both were at Red Bull couldn’t be understated, Coulthard said.
“A Ferrari or someone like that would want Daniel,” he said.
“But would Sebastian Vettel want Daniel in the same team at Ferrari? He knows how that went when they were together at Red Bull Racing.”