Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo is currently contracted to the Milton Keynes based squad until the end of the 2018 season, but has stated that if they want to keep him after that, they will have to prove he has a chance of winning championships with them.
The Australian has been driving under the Red Bull umbrella, as part of the senior squad and junior team Scuderia Toro Rosso, since 2012 and is now ready to start winning titles before it is too late.
Fighting for the championship is something Ricciardo felt would be possible this year, but that has so far not been possible, with Red Bull some way off the mark of title protagonists Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team and Scuderia Ferrari.
That has been disappointing for the 28-year-old, despite achieving the odd podium, as he explained to motorsport.com at a karting event to promote his own Ricciardo Kart venture, recently.
“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.
“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. We have still managed to get podiums but we haven’t realistically been in the championship hunt so 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.
“Do I want to win with them? Absolutely. I think that would complete the story as well. 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.”
The Australian has plenty of admirers, and has been linked to both Mercedes and Ferrari in the past, so when he does become available in 2019, there will likely be copious amounts of interest.
With Kimi Raikkonen only on a one-year deal at Ferrari, and Mercedes yet to decide on the terms going forward for Valtteri Bottas, both teams appear to be keeping their options open to bring in a driver such as Ricciardo when the time is right.
So far in his career, Red Bull, who took the Australian under their wing as a junior driver, have made all decisions for him, but from 2019, he will be free to make his own choices.
That is something Ricciardo is looking forward to being able to do for the first time, and he knows it could be a career defining moment, so he must get it right.
“I think whatever I choose to do next, let’s say I have got decisions to make once my Red Bull contract is up.
“It is the first time in my professional career that I’ve been a free agent – it is something I’ve never really had before. I’ve been with Red Bull since the start and it has been awesome and all that.
“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.”