A week since the final race of the 2017 season was staged at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, teams have already commenced plans and preparations for the upcoming year.
Once again Mercedes dominated the honours, comprehensively beating Ferrari and Red Bull in the constructors’ title race and finishing 154 points ahead of the Italians with 668 points.
Red Bull, on the other hand, finished 300 points adrift the leaders with 368 points after 20 races.
Lewis Hamilton won his third title in the last four years - his fourth overall - and firmly embedded his name among the elites who have won the world title as many times.
The world champion recently had his say on the current driver line up in Formula One and said: “The four strongest drivers I think are me, Fernando, Sebastian, Max. I really hope we are all in the fight next year.”
However, that assessment has not gone down well with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who thinks Daniel Ricciardo should also be mentioned in the same high regard.
“Lewis would be very foolish to underestimate Daniel," Horner told Sky Sports:
“He's a phenomenal driver, he's arguably the best overtaker in the business. He's driven some great races this year and some great races in his time at Red Bull.
“He's absolutely ready for a championship challenge if we can provide him with the tools to do the job.”
Ricciardo was pipped by Kimi Raikkonen for fourth place in the drivers’ championship in the final race, ultimately finishing in fifth with 200 points, ahead of his teammate Verstappen in sixth.
Despite durability issues and six retirements, the 28-year-old still managed to secure one win in the inaugural Azerbaijan GP alongside eight other podium finishes throughout the campaign.
The UK-based outfit have made major improvements in their RB14 and Horner is confident they have the line-up to challenge the Silver Arrows in 2018.
“I'm really excited that we've got the strongest driver pairing in Formula 1,” he added.
“Max and Daniel, they push each other to such high limits and that's tremendously exciting for us.
“If you look at the number of points we have given away through unreliability, it's close to 160.
“Engine reliability has hit us really hard. At the beginning of the year we undelivered on the chassis, we didn't hit the ground running. We understood those problems quickly and moved to address them quickly.
“We will take all the lessons from this year into next year and we have a lot to be optimistic about. We are hopeful that the engine situation will improve and we are getting a lot of promises that will be the case.
“But what's been really encouraging is the last 25 per cent of the season. We have had one of, if not the, strongest cars. If we can take that on RB14, we can give Merc and Ferrari a closer fight.”
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