Daniel Ricciardo says that Red Bull must improve significantly next year if he is to stay on with the team beyond the end of his current contract.
Ricciardo is off-contract at the end of 2018, having driven for the senior team since being promoted from Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2014.
The Perth-born driver has won five Formula 1 races with RBR, including three in his first season as team-mate to four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
However, he has not been a factor in the title race for a number of seasons now, with RBR’s Renault engines clearly inferior to those of Mercedes and Ferrari during the turbo-hybrid era.
The struggles have caused Ricciardo to question whether he needs to leave the team in order to challenge for a championship.
“I went through that impatient phase for sure, and I am still bordering that – because I don’t want to leave F1 without a championship,” the 28-year-old told Autosport.
“At least right now, I still believe I can do that, absolutely.
“I am looking for it – sooner rather than later.
“I thought we would be in with a really good shot this year, but it hasn’t turned out like that.
“It really needs to happen with Red Bull next year – at least from my point of view.
“I’ve been here for quite a few years now and I think next year we need to make a bigger step next year than we did this year, to really convince me that I can win with them.”
Red Bull backed Ricciardo throughout junior single-seaters and he made his F1 debut after being placed at HRT (Hispania) mid-way through the 2011 season.
He spent two full seasons with STR before stepping up to RBR, and says that winning a title would “complete the story”.
“Do I want to win with them (Red Bull)? Absolutely,” he said.
“Seb (Vettel) got to complete it – he is the only guy.
“So, my heart would love to. But we will see.
“I want an opportunity to be able to win week in and week out, while I believe I am still at the top.”
Ferrari has only renewed Kimi Raikkonen’s contract for 2018, while Mercedes is yet to commit to long-term contracts for Valtteri Bottas, whose deal ends this season, and Lewis Hamilton, whose contract expires at the end of next year.
One of the factors behind those decisions is believed to be Ricciardo’s availability for 2019, and he said his next move was “unlikely to be for just one year – it is probably three years”.
“I have got decisions to make once my Red Bull contract is up,” added Ricciardo.
“It is the first time in my professional career that I’ve been a free agent.
“I’ve been with Red Bull since the start and it has been awesome.
“But it is up to them as well if they would want to continue, and then it is a decision where I think it will be best.”