Daniel Riccardo is in a potentially tricky situation ahead of the new season with his long-term future still up in the air - that's according to fellow Australian Mark Webber.
Webber, a Formula 1 veteran of 11 years, believes Riccardo has reached a critical point in his career.
The Red Bull star's current contract expires at the end of the year and he is still none the wiser on who he will be driving for in 12 months' time.
And Webber thinks it's only natural for the situation to play on Ricciardo's mind during the first few races of the campaign.
“The stop watch is important – the first part of the year is very important for him. He knows that,” Webber said, per Planet F1.
“He is on a tight rope. There is no question. Any driver comes to that point in his career where it’s negotiation time again on contract – there is a little bit more in the air around the team.
“I have been through that stability, in the middle of it where you are just knuckling down, and, obviously, right on the edge where you are waiting to renew your contract, whether it’s you stalling or the team stalling. I have been through both of those.”
Nevertheless, Webber remains confident that whatever happens between Riccardo and Red Bull once contract discussions eventually get underway once the season starts, the Australian will still have a seat in F1 at the start of 2019.
He added: “At the end of the day, when the helmet is on, it can’t affect you, whether you have a five-year contract or a five-minute contract – you have to deliver. The team sees that.
“They are measuring everything now, there is nowhere to hide which is good for him because it sorts out the wheat from the chaff.
“That’s why he has had a long career and continues to have long career because he deserves to be there.”
“He is safe in F1. It’s just a question if he is wants the absolute perfect team in ’19 and trying to get the No.1 status somewhere in those teams. That’s what he would love to achieve.”
One thing is for sure, 2018 represents a huge year in the career of Daniel Ricciardo.
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