Daniel Ricciardo wants fair fight with Sebastian Vettel in Suzuka

Who will prove to be the fastest man? (©GettyImages)

It may have taken a back seat to the situation at Mercedes, but what has been one of the most interesting features of the 2014 Formula One season is the emergence of Daniel Ricciardo and his level of performance alongside his new team mate, the four-time world champion, Sebastian Vettel.

The Australian arrived at Red Bull from Toro Rosso and wasted no time in making a statement of intent with the parent team.

So strong has the level of performance been from the 25-year-old, that it has even led to serious question marks surrounding the true ability of the youngest Formula One champion of all time, Vettel.

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Closer fight expected

But Ricciardo expects the German to be a lot closer in challenging him for the remaining five races of the 2014 season.

Ricciardo said to reporters:  "He (Vettel) has got to grips with it better.  

"On Sundays my race performance has been the surprising one that has been really good, and what I have had going for me is tyre management. I have been able to look after the tyres better.

"But in terms of pure speed, he is up to speed with everything and he has pushed me down in the last few qualifying's."

Therefore Ricciardo believes that now there are no hiding places and the fastest man is the fastest man in his own right, as the season enters its final stages.

"So from now until the end of the year there should not be any question marks: whoever is in front, is in front."

Ricciardo advantage

Ricciardo did also reveal that he feels he has had an advantage this season due to the jump in quality at his disposable from driving the Toro Rosso in 2013 to the Red Bull this year. In contrast, Vettel has been a lot more restricted and in their individual scenarios it has favoured the Aussie.

"It was maybe easier to come from Toro Rosso to Red Bull. 

"My Toro Rosso had less grip than his Red Bull, so the grip loss was less from me. Adapting to that was a bigger task for him than it was for me."

Never the less, what Ricciardo has achieved this season can by no means be taken lightly. He has delivered in all aspects this year and promises to have a very successful and competitive career in front of him.  

Statistical comparison

When you look at the statistics comparing Ricciardo and Vettel, regardless of any external issues, it is impressive from the new man. The team mates are both level in terms of qualifying results with both having got the edge seven times. But in race results, where it all matters, it is a staggering eight results to two in favour of Ricciardo.

It leaves him third in the championship standings with 181 points while Vettel is fifth with 124.  Of course it cannot be forgotten that Ricciardo has also enjoyed three race victories where as Vettel has only managed to celebrate on the podium once this year, something he is far from familiar with having to miss out on.

Emphasised failures

But there most certainly have been logical explanations for Vettel's lack of form this year and it has been unfortunate for him that Ricciardo's brilliance has just emphasised the failures of this season for him even more.

If, as Ricciardo predicts,a fair fight awaits this weekend at the Japanese Grand Prix, then it will be fascinating to see which of these two drivers will come out on top. And if the Red Bull can return to its very best then the competition between these two and the Mercedes men could be unbelievably exciting.  

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