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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Daniel Ricciardo defends Renault's reliability as he prepares for Red Bull swansong in Abu Dhabi

The Australian hopeful of successful end with Austrian team at Yas Marina Circuit before he departs after five years

Daniel Ricciardo said he is "realistic" about his chances of instant success at Renault in 2019 as he defended the French manufacturer's reliability record.

The Australian will compete on Sunday for the final time for Red Bull Racing at the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

He is departing Red Bull after five years in which time he has won seven times, two of those successes coming this year in China and Monaco, to join a Renault team who have not won in Formula One in 10 years and last had a car on the podium in 2011.

Speaking on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi as he took part in a Movember event at VPS Healthcare on Reem Island, he said he was aware Sunday's 55-lap race could be his last chance to challenge at the front for a while.

Talking of approaching his final race with Red Bull, he said: "This weekend I am trying to finish on a high with the team. I know this car now is probably going to be better then the Renault I will have in Melbourne next year so I will just try and make the most of that."

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Ricciardo sees the move to Renault as a long-term project, the target being to fight for podiums by 2020, and he said he said his eyes were open to the fact that he was likely to be further down the field in 2019 then he has been this season with his current employers.

"I am realistic for sure and the team is," he said. "When I signed with them they made it clear to me they are not going to give me a championship winning car next year. They would love too but is probably unrealistic."

Renault are fourth in the constructors' standings this season, but are 278 points behind third-placed Red Bull, with top two Mercedes-GP and Ferrari even further ahead. Ricciardo added: "I guess the plan next year is to cut that gap and make in-roads on the top three."

The 29 year old's move, which was announced in August, was a shock to the F1 world, given he had been part of a strong driver pairing with Max Verstappen.

Despite his two successes this season he is set for his worst championship finish since 2015 as eight retirements, largely due to mechanical failures, from the first 20 races of the year have left him sixth in the standings.

Red Bull's car has been powered by a Renault engine, but Ricciardo said he did not have concerns with reliability for his new employer.

"I think every time my car breaks down they think it has been an engine problem, but it hasn't always been that," he said.

"For sure they still have some work to do reliability wise. But it hasn't always been that clear. Some things have been exhaust or other things which aren't actually in Renault's control."

Ricciardo's best result in Abu Dhabi is his fourth place in 2014 but he is hopeful he can get a first podium at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday.

“I like it," he said of the 5.5km track. "I’ve always liked it. You normally like a track that you’re quite fast on. It’s a track I’ve had a good record on. I love the last part, underneath the hotel it’s a bit of a novelty."