MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Daniel Ricciardo has no intention of simply offering Mark Webber some home grown company on the grid at the Australian Grand Prix this weekend - he wants points at the Formula One season opener.
The 22-year-old Western Australian raced 11 times for HRT last season without making his mark on the championship standings but is hoping his first drive for Toro Rosso will produce a top 10 finish.
”To finish in the points is the real goal that I‘m after,“ he told reporters on Wednesday. ”I guess we’ll see where our performance is on Saturday in qualifying.
“We’ll try and have the best race we can but anything is possible. Even if qualifying doesn’t go to plan, Sunday is a long race so I’ll be staying positive until the end.”
Ricciardo knows that his first priority is to beat his team mate in the completely new driver line-up at Toro Rosso, Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne.
”I guess I expect myself to have a bit of an edge,“ he added. ”I’ve done more races than Jean-Eric, who hasn’t done any, so of course if he’s going to be in front of me this weekend I won’t be happy with myself.
”We’ve raced against each other for a few years now and he’s quick and I know he’s capable.
“For me, I’ve got to make sure I finish in front of him but I think we’re definitely going to get the most out of the car and from the team’s point of view that’s very important.”
As a former Red Bull test and reserve driver, Ricciardo’s natural long-term target, frequently promoted by the Australian media, would be to replace compatriot Webber when the 35-year-old finally moves on.
He is aware, however, how quickly reputations can rise and fall in Formula One and is only focused on the target immediately ahead of him.
“It could be my one and only (year) if it’s not good enough so I’ve definitely got to step up and do as good as I can,” he said.
“I plan on staying in Formula One and competing at a very high level for many years to come and it’s a good start if I have a good year this year.”
Sunday will be Ricciardo’s first Australian Grand Prix and Webber’s 11th, presenting the passionate crowds with two local drivers to support for the first time.
”As intense as this all looks, I‘m pretty relaxed actually,“ Ricciardo said. ”I’ve been here since the weekend and had some time off, just some time to chill out. Being back in Australia is just great.
“I‘m relaxed and, once today and tomorrow is over, I‘m in the car and that’s where I’ll probably feel most at home.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford