A Formula One rival has put Daniel Ricciardo on the receiving end of a brutal forecast for the looming season.
The Perth local’s long-awaited first race weekend with Renault kicks off on Friday.
However, he is not expecting to end Melbourne’s drought for a first Australian hero to make it on to the podium on Sunday.
Renault finished well behind his old team Red Bull in 2018 and have set their expectations relatively low for this year.
Ricciardo does, however, have a battle on his hands inside the Renault garage.
For most drivers beating their teammate is seen as the primary goal, and with podiums likely to be rare the rich new recruit must outperform Nico Hulkenberg to help justify his move.
In contrast to Ricciardo’s seven wins Hulkenberg has never even finished on the podium in his eight years in Formula One.
To some, the 31-year-old German remains a sleeping giant waiting for a faster car – and his former Force India teammate Sergio Perez is firmly in that camp.
“I am very interested to see that,” Perez told Autosport of Hulkenberg’s battle with Ricciardo.
“I think it is going to be very close with them.”
Perez, beginning his sixth season with the Force India team now known as Racing Point, has put little weight into Ricciardo’s Red Bull days.
“I am actually expecting Nico to be ahead,” the Mexican said.
“In qualifying, in points, too. I expect Nico to beat him. He’ll disappoint me if he doesn’t.
“I don’t know Daniel. All I know is Nico, and Nico is a very complete driver. So, he should be all right.”
Last year Ricciardo’s two early wins made way for a growing divide between he and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen.
The Aussie was soundly beaten by Verstappen in qualifying and failed to get on the podium after Monaco, though his cause was not helped by multiple mechanical failures, as the Dutchman recorded two wins and a further eight podium finishes.
Asked if Ricciardo made the right choice to leave Red Bull, his former Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost made his opinion clear.
“No. In my opinion not, but it’s only my opinion,” he said.
“To go away from Red Bull Racing to this other team. I have never understood it and I will not understand. But the future will show (the truth).
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner suggested Ricciardo left because he was “running from a fight” with Verstappen.
“You must think whether you want to have a fantastic atmosphere, or you want to win races,” Tost added.
“When you want to win races, the atmosphere most often is not the best. You can’t have everything.
“The atmosphere you can have at home with your wife, girlfriend – there you can have the atmosphere. Not in the garage. That’s my opinion.”