Daniel Ricciardo has already conceded he’s unlikely to challenge for wins when he moves to Renault for the 2019 Formula One season.
But the sad reality of the Australian’s farewell tour with Red Bull is that it’s just as implausible that he will snag another victory before departing the former championship-winning team.
Ricciardo won in China and at Monaco earlier this year but since then it has been a battle, missing out on podiums and failing to finish four times.
His qualifying advantage over teammate Max Verstappen has also diminished, highlighted by their contrasting results at the Singapore Grand Prix two weeks ago.
The twisting and turning track was expected to assist Red Bull but both drivers were eclipsed by championship leader Lewis Hamilton.
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Verstappen managed to start and finish second, while Ricciardo was the slowest of the six drivers in the front-running pack led by Mercedes and Ferrari.
On top of Ricciardo’s personal struggles inside his car, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says success in the final six races of the year will be welcomed rather than expected.
“I think realistically Mexico is probably the only shot we’ve got left, under normal circumstances,” said Horner, who has unfavourable tracks in Russia, Japan and the United States to navigate before then.
“Hopefully we can get a few more podiums in before the end of the year.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who is attempting to lead his team and Hamilton to constructors’ and drivers’ titles, echoed Horner’s prediction.
“Red Bull was a real factor in Singapore and (it would be good) if they could play more of a role until the end of the season,” he told Autosport.
“It is good to have them in the mix, it is good for the fans and for the racing. We enjoyed it.
“Mexico will be the next one where on paper they should be really quick, but who knows what happens in Sochi and Suzuka.”
In spite of his lack of success, Ricciardo’s final races with Red Bull remain useful exercises for his future.
The Australian has been heartened by the updated Renault engine, confident the mid-range team is making gains in their bid to return to former glories.
“Through my time with the Renault power unit we’ve had some updates which have worked and some which haven’t. That’s been the reality,” Ricciardo said.
“Obviously the ones that don’t it can be a bit frustrating or demoralizing if you’re expecting something more than what you’re getting.
“Now, this being their latest step, having positives and actual gains from that, is positive. It’s encouraging for the next part of this year but also for my future. It’s a nice little positive.”
Even Horner, who was a driving force in Red Bull’s decision to dump Renault power for Honda from next season, has been impressed.
“To be honest when you hear Christian give it some encouragement, we all know how that relationship is,” the Australian said.
“He doesn’t need to say those things, if you know what I mean. But he did and that’s a bit of proof in the pudding that it was a step.
“As a driver you could feel it, especially in qualifying. That was the first time I turned everything up on it. It felt like it, let’s say, pulled a little harder before the braking. It was a step in the right direction, I’m convinced on that.”
Ricciardo jets off to Russia for this weekend’s race after visiting his hometown Perth over the weekend to watch his West Coast Eagles reach the AFL grand final.