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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Daniel Ricciardo has one eye on 2019 contract situation as he prepares for Abu Dhabi GP

The Red Bull Racing driver says he will think carefully about his next contract as he starts fourth at Yas Marina Circuit

Daniel Ricciardo starts the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from fourth place on the grid. Clive Mason / Getty Images
Daniel Ricciardo starts the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from fourth place on the grid. Clive Mason / Getty Images

Daniel Ricciardo is fond of Yas Marina Circuit and the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Red Bull Racing driver was one of the star performers in qualifying on Saturday as he took fourth place for the 55-lap race.

"It has been a good track to me in the past and qualifying has always been strong," said the Australian to reporters in the Red Bull hospitality unit on Saturday night.

"I knew it was there. I just needed to put it together."

Of his lap time, which was only 0.7 seconds off pole sitter Valtteri Bottas, he said: "It was always there to be honest. I just found a little bit more on the last run.

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"The first Q3 run was pretty scrappy but we knew why. I think we were just out with the temperatures on the tyres."

But, trying to finish on the podium and achieve a sixth win in his Formula One career is not the only thing on Ricciardo's mind.

He is out of contract at the end of 2018, and as one of the most highly rated drivers on the grid, he is expected to be in much demand, with Ferrari and Mercedes-GP possible destinations, along with staying with his current employers.

“Talking to Red Bull is easier, because I know them already, the other two I guess if they’re interested they’ll need to make the approach," said Ricciardo.

He is heading back to Australia for the winter, and admitted he was unlikely to make a decision on where he would want to go for 2019 after he had seen how everyone was performing in the opening races of next season.

"I think right now it’s not about the offer, it’s about who’s going to have the best car in 2019 I guess," he said. "It’s worth me just seeing how the start of the year goes.

"I don’t want to be too clever and think I’ll have every option possible but I think I’ve got enough time on my side to still sit it out a little bit.”

Ricciardo began his F1 career with Hispania in 2011, and raced for Toro Rosso between 2012-13, before he graduated to Red Bull in 2014 where in his first year he out-performed four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

He remains the only teammate of Vettel's to have so far scored more points in a season then the German.

Ricciardo acknowledged he was aware at the age of 28 that it was vital he got the decision right on where he was driving in 2019.

He nodded in agreement when it was put to him the risks of getting it wrong, as seen by Fernando Alonso, who since winning two world titles in 2005-2006, has not won another as he has failed to win the championship with the likes of McLaren and Ferrari.

“That’s I think another reason why I’m a bit afraid to rush the decision. Because whatever I sign it’s unlikely going to be a one-year – it’s probably a multiple-year deal, I’m assuming,” Ricciardo added.

“That then is probably the peak years of my career, is the next deal I sign, so I want to make sure I maximise that with my driving ability then, so that’s why I’m going to take my time and try to figure it out.”

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix begins at 5pm.