Melbourne: Australian Daniel Ricciardo said Wednesday he has no fear of any animosity poisoning his working relationship with Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull this season. Ricciardo, 24, who replaced retired compatriot Mark Webber on the team in 2014, faces a challenging task with the four-time world champion.
The Australian, already under the pressure of expectation at his home season-opening Grand Prix at Albert Park on Sunday, will be pitted against Vettel with much the same technical backup as the German.
Vettel and Webber clashed several times, stemming from a number of high profile incidents on the track, notably during the 2011 title battle and when Vettel disobeyed orders so he could snatch victory from his teammate at last year's Malaysian Grand Prix.
"I still have a job to do and still have Seb alongside me, which is going to be a big challenge no matter what position we're fighting for," Ricciardo said. "I still have a bit on my plate. I don't fear any animosity (with Vettel).
"They're asking me how I'm going to go against Seb and obviously I have faith and confidence that I will go well against him. "But until I do it on an even playing field, I don't really know -- not much can be answered yet."
Ricciardo is hopeful that Red Bull can surprise their rivals on Sunday despite a disastrous pre-season with mechanical troubles plaguing their new Renault engine during testing at Bahrain late in February. "I know for a fact the team has been working ridiculously hard all through the off-season, but even more so since testing began and we realised where we stood," he said.
"I'm sure we made progress, but until we get on track on Friday, we're not going to know how much ground we've made on competitors. "But we're going to get stronger and stronger and the more laps we do, I think each lap is going to be so important for us."
Vettel has predicted a debacle for Red Bull at the opening race and team advisor Helmut Marko admitted: "We are not where we want to be. "The start of the season has come at least two months too early for us," he said. "It will be difficult to catch up, we don't know when or if that is possible."
But Ricciardo said he cannot let those problems affect his outlook. "In a way, I guess it lowers a bit of attention or expectation," he said. "But at the same time, it doesn't really change my approach.
"I'm not going to walk on the grid on Sunday and just (think) 'yeah, whatever, it's just another race'."