Could Ricciardo displace Hamilton at Mercedes?

A leading Formula One pundit has suggested Mercedes could look to make Daniel Ricciardo their No.1 driver, forcing Lewis Hamilton out.

Out of contract at the end of the year, Ricciardo has been linked to Ferrari and current champions Mercedes.

Red Bull hope they can convince the Aussie to stay with them after giving him a winning car at the Chinese Grand Prix.

The victory, from sixth on the starting grid, was a morale-booster for the 28-year-old after a frustrating start to the season and comes as he is deciding his next career move.

And according to Sky Sports pundit Martin Brundle: "If Mercedes is an opportunity, where would he sit within the all-powerful sphere of Lewis Hamilton?"

Ricciardo and Hamilton. Image: Getty

"Let me throw this outrageous curveball. Hamilton doesn’t seem particularly happy at the moment, and I can imagine he will be super expensive to hire for his next Merc contract too.

"If that isn’t already signed, would Mercedes go for the four-and-a-half-year younger Ricciardo instead?"

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said he was confident Ricciardo would stay put.

"I think Daniel's happy in the environment. If we can give him a car like we did today, why would he want to be anywhere else?,"

"He had the energy store failure in Bahrain, he had a turbo failure here yesterday, losing him important track time.

"You get to a point where you think 'what next?'. But it's a great confidence booster for him, to get this result now in this point in the year. Everything is wide open."

Mercedes, the dominant team in Formula One for the past four seasons, have yet to win in three races.

Ferrari won in Australia and Bahrain with four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who may not relish the prospect of his former Red Bull teammate joining him at Maranello.

Red Bull have made clear since last year that they want Ricciardo to stay alongside 20-year-old Dutch driver Max Verstappen, a hot prospect whose race on Sunday was marred by needless overtaking errors.

"He's a very rounded driver now. He's absolutely at the top of his game and I think he has been for the last couple of years," Horner said of the Australian.

"He's hit that balance of experience and pace. He's one of the best overtakers in the business and his judgement is impeccable in terms of judging a gap.

"I feel he's in a different part of his career to where Max is at the moment, who is still very young and fresh and going through that experience."

with AAP