Daniel Ricciardo thinks one more victory before the summer break will cement him as an outsider for the 2018 Formula 1 title.
The Red Bull driver took his second win of the season in Monaco last weekend to jump to third in the standings on 72 points, 28 behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton.
Red Bull is not an out-and-out match for Mercedes and Ferrari because of its engine disadvantage, which is particularly significant in qualifying, but Ricciardo has the same number of wins as Hamilton and second-placed Sebastian Vettel after six races.
“I think it’s a natural question after a victory,” he said when asked if he can fight for the championship. “Lewis still has a pretty good buffer on me, so we’re still on the outside of that.
“It’s not impossible but not really at the forefront of my mind yet. Even if it was, I’m not going to change the way that I’m driving or trying to attack.
“We’ve got to probably prove on at least one other circuit before the summer break that we can win again and then maybe we’ve a nice little outside chance.”
Ricciardo’s best chance to win again before the break will likely be in Hungary, where Red Bull has traditionally been strong.
Its hopes could hinge on progress from Renault, which is planning to bring an engine upgrade for the race in Canada next week.
Ricciardo said “Montreal will be interesting” and that his short-term target is to try to get “a few more podiums”.
Hamilton is also keen to see how Red Bullfares from Canada onwards and said the championship is “definitely a three-way fight”.
He believes Ferrari is the strongest and Vettel is the favourite despite being 14 points behind.
They’ve dropped the ball a few times and we’ve been there to capitalise, so we’re further ahead than we would be if everyone had done the job,” said Hamilton.
“But it is a three-way battle. I think Red Bull have got a potential upgrade coming, engine-wise, at the next race.
“It’ll be interesting to see their performance. They will continue to get stronger through the year.”
Hamilton thinks that an exciting title fight will mitigate the impact of dull races like in Monaco, where tyre management contributed to a processional GP.
“Hopefully, while this race wasn’t the most exciting, it’s great for the fans to see this battle that we’re having,” said Hamilton.
“I personally love it. It’s challenging me more than I can express, the biggest challenge that I’ve had.”