Australian Formula One ace Daniel Ricciardo has brushed aside suggestions he must re-unite with former teammate Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari next season if he is to achieve his world championship ambitions.
Racing legend Alan Jones, the last Australian to claim the world championship back in 1980, believes Ricciardo’s interests will be best served if he leaves Red Bull Racing at season’s end.
By his own admission, Ricciardo’s Red Bull machine isn’t expected to challenge the might of Mercedes this season but Ferrari is thought to have bridged the gap on last year’s pacesetters.
“I heard AJ say that, or I heard some comments, and got asked about it but last year I was asked as well – I don’t have much more to say on it,” Ricciardo said on Thursday.
“It’s still very early in the season and to give a boring answer, but an honest answer: I’m just completely focused on this year now with Red Bull.
“That’s where it stands and I’m not exactly out of contract either … I wouldn’t get too excited.”
Ricciardo’s contract status is clouded by confidential performance clauses that could stop such a move.
The Perth-born driver raced with the four-time world champion at Red Bull in 2014 before the German switched to the prancing horse ahead of the 2015 season.
Ricciardo outshone his better-credentialled teammate, finishing his breakout season ahead of Vettel in the world championship standings with three race wins.
Vettel sat alongside Ricciardo at a pre-race media conference on Thursday at the Albert Park circuit and said he wouldn’t have a problem teaming up with the Australian again.
“I don’t mind Daniel – we never had any issues,” Vettel said.
“Obviously, the year that we had together was very good for him and not so good for me. That’s what happened on the track but, outside the track, which I think is more important when you talk about your teammate … we never had any (issues) – at least that I can remember.”
The No.2 seat at Ferrari is filled by Finnish veteran Kimi Raikkonen, the 36-year-old winner of the 2007 world championship who is out of contract at season’s end.