Daniel Ricciardo is daring to dream — just not too big yet.
Halfway through a sensational first Formula One season with reigning constructors’ champion Red Bull, it is easy to see why the Australian is in reflective mood.
Ricciardo returns to the track at next week’s Belgium Grand Prix with two race wins in his pocket after he followed up a career-first in Canada with victory last time out in Hungary.
With eight races left to run, the 25-year-old finds himself in the unusual position of being the only driver apart from dueling Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton to take the checkered flag this season.
“I definitely don’t look too far ahead,” Ricciardo told CNN’s The Circuit at Red Bull Racing’s headquarters near Milton Keynes, England.
“I don’t get over-excited. I just try and focus on getting all the steps right and then believe that will turn into a good string of results.
“I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing and keep learning as I go along.”
With the mighty Mercedes pair out in front of the field, Ricciardo knows he is unlikely to snatch the title from their grasp in the second half of the year.
But after such an encouraging start, Ricciardo — who is 71 points behind championship leader Rosberg — doesn’t want to shackle his ambition.
“Since I entered F1 the second part of the season has always gone better for me,” he said.
“I seem to learn from the first six months and really put it towards better results in the second half of the year.
“We will see how it’s going and try to get a few more wins.”
Red Bull’s newest recruit is also keen to retain the upper hand over his illustrious teammate Sebastian Vettel, having impressed since making the step up from Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso.
Ricciardo has out-qualified the four-time world champion at six of the 11 grands prix so far this season, and a 9-2 lead in race position (including his Australian GP result before he was later disqualified for a fuel-flow irregularity).
“I won’t lie to you — it feels great,” Ricciardo said of his performance compared with the German. “He is an awesome benchmark to judge myself on.
“To have shown really good speed against him, not only in qualifying but in races as well, has been encouraging. I’m enjoying that.”
The F1 season resumes next week at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit set amid the Ardennes forest in Belgium.
The fast, flowing and undulating track is unlikely to play to the strengths of Red Bull’s car, which has lagged behind Mercedes in terms of straight-line speed.
“Spa is a fun track,” said Ricciardo. “You feel like, in a way, you get a little bit lost out there. You feel like you’re driving in a forest.
“There are some very long straights, which will unfortunately give a bit of lap time away.
“We will see — it is probably going to be one of those tracks where we’re there or thereabouts.”
The same can be said of Ricciardo this season — there or thereabouts, and then some. (GMM)