Speaking to Wheels on the eve of the Australian F1GP opening in Melbourne, Ricciardo jokingly laughed off the temptation to name himself, instead listing Max as the most competitive teammate he has had - and his pick for the best driver in the sport - amidst speculation about Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
“Well the best I won’t answer myself, because I think you know what I’m going to answer. Let’s say besides myself – it’s not arrogant, it’s just confidence kids, that’s all – I’m curious about Lewis [Hamilton] and Fernando [Alonso]. I would love to have them as teammates, but out of current and out of teammates I’ve had over time, I’d probably say Max. Those three come to mind.”
It’s said in Formula 1 that a driver’s teammate is the first person they need to beat. Sharing a pit garage with the driver he considers his strongest opponent is something Ricciardo doesn’t dwell on.
“I’m not worried about Max. I think one of my strengths is that I focus on myself first, because I believe in myself. I’m like OK, if I get my shit together then I believe I’ll get the job done.
“At the same time I’m not ignorant. I feel like there are always things to learn, so I will try and learn from other people as well. And the fact that Max is a teammate, I’ve got his data to look at, so I’m going to use that if I can to my advantage, like he can use mine.
“I’ll try and learn some things. I definitely realise he’s a tough opponent and if I’m not on my game he’s a very big threat. He keeps me very honest, absolutely.”
Ricciardo goes into his home race and the opening round of the 2017 Formula 1 season with high hopes of a podium finish. He placed third on the timing boards behind the two Mercedes after the first practice session, though there is a long way still to go before the chequered flag drops.