By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Daniel Ricciardo says he needs more than winning last Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix to convince him to stay with Red Bull next season.
The 28-year-old Australian is out of contract at the end of the year and has been linked to potential vacancies at Ferrari and Formula One champions Mercedes.
“I want to be with the best car because I think the weekend proved that if I got the opportunity I can pull it off, I can handle that pressure and that intensity,” Ricciardo told Australia’s Channel 10 television on Tuesday.
“If we can win a few more now with Red Bull, then that looks very attractive. If not, then I guess there’s probably other options,” he added.
“Obviously the win helps but if we were finishing sixth every race this year, then that’s not the most attractive option to me.”
Until Sunday, Ricciardo had endured a difficult start to the season.
Fourth in his home Australian Grand Prix after a grid penalty, he retired in Bahrain on the second lap with an electrical problem.
In China, he qualified only sixth after a pre-qualifying engine switch.
While Mercedes have yet to win this season, they are still top of the constructors’ standings and have won both championships for the last four years.
The symbolism of Sunday’s podium was not lost on spectators, with Ricciardo standing next to the men whose seats he could take — second placed Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Pressed on Tuesday on where he wanted to be, Ricciardo jokingly swerved: “I just want to go to the moon.
“I’ve been asked so many contract questions so I’m trying to find other ways to answer them.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner on Sunday questioned why Ricciardo would want to be anywhere else if the team could give him a winning car.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the four times champion team mate Ricciardo beat at Red Bull in 2014, won the first two races and has started the last two on pole.
Asked whether, on Sunday’s evidence, Red Bull had a car that could challenge for the championship, Ricciardo reserved judgment.
“I think it’s still too early to say yes,” he said. “We won at the weekend but we need to win regularly to kind of show that.
“If we come out and win again in two weeks in Baku then I’ll probably say yes.”
Azerbaijan, a race Ricciardo won last year after chaotic scenes, is next up on April 29.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)