New McLaren recruit Daniel Ricciardo has warned Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes that his team is doing all it can to be “real contenders” this season.
Hamilton has won seven world championships and is the favourite to win a record-breaking eighth title.
This season will be different, though, with McLaren using Mercedes power units. this will undoubtedly give them a boost.
There is a belief that with new regulations set to kick in from 2022, there will be much more fierce competition on the grid.
Ricciardo, who has made the switch from Renault, feels he can cut the gap on Hamilton.
“Everything I have seen excites me about where McLaren is heading,” Ricciardo said.
“I really believe in the personnel.
“They are doing what it takes to be a real contender in the Championship.”
Last year, Ricciardo finished the season in fifth spot as far as the drivers’ standings were concerned. He is hopeful of bettering that record.
“More teams than not finished on the podium last year,” Ricciardo said.
“The battle to get to the front was getting more intense.
“For the rest of us, we are trying to close on Mercedes. I see it as most teams having a chance of a podium.”
Even McLaren boss Andreas Seidl said he was keen to mix things up in his team.
“We are definitely convinced that we are in a position, once we are there as a team, that the Mercedes power unit can help us to win races again in the future,” he said.
“But, I think it’s important to make sure we focus on ourselves. We still have a long way to go on our side and on the team side, but we are happy with the progress we could make the last two years.
“At the same time, you know, there’s still a lot of things we need to get in place first on the infrastructure side and on the team side, before we actually battle for race wins again.”
Ricciardo and Lando Norris will make up the two spots at McLaren. Norris spoke about what an enriching experience it was to learn from Ricciardo.
“I do my best and the people who know that more than anyone are the people I work with,” Norris said.
“They know the effort and time spent and what I am good enough in and what I am not good enough in.
“Last year, I was very happy with how I did. There were things to improve but on the whole it was a much better season than year one (in 2019).
“I’m happy, but I have different things to work on and working alongside Daniel will help me become a better driver too.”