“At Singapore, I genuinely think we can certainly fight for the podium again, but hopefully I get my first win there,” the 28-year-old says.
“I’ve been knocking on the door for a few years there, and we’ll have a few more updates there as well. If they work as they should, then it should put us in a good position.”
Ricciardo came within a lap of winning at Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit last year, closing down Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg for the lead in the closing stages – but was just unable to get past, finishing 0.488 seconds adrift, for his best-ever result there in six visits since 2011.
And while the Mercedes vs Ferrari battle rolls on at the front, the Red Bull Racing driver has shown some searing pace – with a brilliant fight-back drive last weekend in Monza, going from 16th on the grid to fourth.
Singapore should suit his RB13 car even more – with the 23-turn street track favouring commitment and skill over horsepower and aero.
“I genuinely think around that type of circuit Ferrari would be the ones to beat. I think they’ll be stronger than Mercedes. With their car this year it seems to be their type of circuit. But I think we’ll come close for sure.”
Ricciardo also knows he has to strike while the iron’s hot, with his respect in the F1 paddock never higher – his future on the line, and a contract outside Red Bull a real possibility, whether it be with Mercedes or Ferrari.
“I’m certainly ready,” he says, when asked about his thoughts on waiting for his time to fight for the world championship.
“Next year is super-important. It’ll be the first time I’ve ever really been a free agent. So it’ll be a unique position for me but I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. Obviously I’m aware, I think it’s common knowledge, that’s when my contract’s up, but we’ll cross that bridge when it comes. See what happens. I’m hoping by then I’ve got a few more wins under my belt and in a luxurious position.”
To win in Singapore, though, is no easy ride.
For the drivers, it’s a serious test of human endurance with cockpit temperatures reaching 55 degrees Celsius at racing speeds, made only worse by three layers of fireproof clothing and a helmet. As a result the drivers will lose up to 3kg in fluid over a two-hour period.
“It’s normally the longest race of the year and a pretty brutal and physical circuit so not much place to rest [through the lap]. It’s a great challenge for the drivers,” says Ricciardo.
For fans, it’s a completely different story to be trackside, with F1 under lights, top international artists, race-themed activities, cool bars and a whole host of places to sit down for local hospitality.
For the live performances, the organisers have pulled out all the stops for their special milestone with the line-up featuring global DJ heavyweight Calvin Harris, pop superstar Ariana Grande, synth-pop veterans Duran Duran, US pop rockers OneRepublic, American duo The Chainsmokers, British singer-songwriters Seal, and Lianne La Havas, and spoken word performer George the Poet.
And if you’re wondering where our man suggests watching from, head over to the far side of the circuit – near the main Padang stage.
“Where we cross onto the bridge, if you head round there, there’s the quick chicane (Turn 11) before the tight hairpin (Turn 13), so when we get onto the bridge that would look pretty fun because we’re kind of jumping across kerbs and doing our thing,” he says.
Ricciardo may have a little longer to wait for that title chase, but his next win could be around the corner – and that’s good enough, for now.
The 2017 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix will be held from September 15-17, with more information at singaporegp.sg
SINGAPORE’S MARINA BAY STREET CIRCUIT – TURN BY TURN
Ricciardo says, “The lap is very busy, as there’s not many points to rest so it’s about putting it all together as it’s very tight, twisty and bumpy. You’ve also got to be smooth, as the tyres can overheat very easily there, so I try to avoid wheelspin, which can help you at the end of the lap. It’s a technical lap, and you need to get close as possible to the walls to push the car so it’s like a controlled aggression there.”
It’s bumpy on braking here, and important to use the exit kerb for a smooth line through Turn 2, quickly arriving at Turn 3.
This is a critical corner to get right, as you exit onto the back straight, the fastest part of the circuit – reaching up to 320km/h at the end.
This is a technical section, finishing with Turn 9, which you need good traction out of to get good speed down the short straight.
These turns were re-profiled in 2015, with Turn 13 the tightest corner on the circuit following a blast over the Anderson Bridge.
The track heads underneath the Bay Grandstand, which is one of the most unique features of the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
This is a very high-speed final corner, with the cars entering at around 250km/h to start another lap of the famous Singapore circuit.