Daniel Ricciardo says Red Bull’s improved showing at the Chinese Grand Prix has given him reason to believe that further podium opportunities will present themselves this year.
The Australian produced a fighting recovery drive to fourth in Shanghai after a puncture in the early stages of the race robbed him of a likely second place finish.
Ricciardo, who started from second on the grid, led the opening laps before debris caused his left rear tyre to fail on the third lap, forcing him on the back foot for the rest of the race.
While team-mate Daniil Kvyat went on to finish third, the Western Australian admitted it hurt to miss out on a podium after labelling his drive as ‘one of the best of his career’.
“I feel that I drove one of the best races of my life, but I’m not spraying the champagne, so it sucks,” said Ricciardo.
“It hurts. But at the same time I am immensely proud of the way I recovered and the way the team got me back on track.”
Although disappointed not to convert his front row start, the three-time grand prix winner feels Red Bull is edging it way back to being a regular podium contender.
Fearing another difficult season heading into the 2016 campaign, Ricciardo says the team’s performance upturn is ahead of schedule.
The team is also expected receive a significant power upgrade with an updated Renault engine set to arrive at the Canadian Grand Prix in June.
“It’s really promising for sure, three races in, every weekend we showed a strength at some point and it’s been a strength we didn’t think we’d have at this point of the year,” added Ricciardo.
“It definitely feels more like 2014, where we do have a lot of potential. So I’ll keep fighting.
“I felt I could have been spraying champagne, but part of me is still smiling because I know this can happen more times this year. It is not going to be the last opportunity.”
Ricciardo leaves China lying third in the championship standings just three points adrift of second placed Lewis Hamilton.