Daniel Ricciardo says his Red Bull Formula 1 team-mate Max Verstappen has “matured a lot” over the past year and now has more respect for his rivals.
The duo have been Red Bull team-mates for the last two seasons and, although they have had one or two heated moments on track this season, they have always enjoyed an excellent relationship away from the action.
And they’ve both been tipped for big things in F1 after showing off their credentials in finishing sixth and fifth in the drivers’ standings last season.
Ricciardo finished 32 points clear of Verstappen in the drivers’ standings in 2017, but the latter suffered more reliability problems, particularly early in the season.
Verstappen and Ricciardo have the potential to scrap it out with the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel for the 2018 title.
Verstappen says he and his team-mate should be able to stay friends, even if they’re competing with each other on the track.
We have a lot of respect for each other. And frankly, in my racing career so far, I’ve never had that much to do with a team-mate,” he is quoted as saying by Speed Week.
“Daniel is a great guy, and even we give everything on the track and fight hard duels, we have a lot of fun off to the track. Therefore, I hope that we will be team-mates for a very long time.”
If Red Bull and Renault get their act together then there is a good chance that the two could be battling for World titles in future, which usually has a negative impact on the relationships between team-mates, but Verstappen doesn’t think it will affect them away from the track.
“Sure, if you fight for the title, then it gets more intense on the track, but in the end, you always come back and have mutual respect,” he said.
“You have to accept when one is faster and I think we can too. If one of us has a good race, then the other one says that he really deserves it. And I think that’s very important.”
Red Bull is yet to produce a title-challenging package during the V6 turbo hybrid era of F1 but, if it manages to rectify that this season, Ricciardo said his relationship with Verstappen “could” change if they found themselves fighting for the championship.
Verstappen also discussed racing with Ricciardo for the long-term as speculation mounts the Australian could leave Red Bull at the end of the 2018 F1 campaign.