x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Ricciardo credits Abu Dhabi for rise

Toro Rosso's Australian is on loan at Hispania Racing Team this season. However, he does not yet know if he has a drive for 2012.

ABU DHABI // Yas Marina Circuit already holds happy memories for Daniel Ricciardo as he prepares to race in Sunday's Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Ricciardo, 22, made the headlines this time last year after topping the times at the Young Driver Test held in Abu Dhabi in a Red Bull Racing car.

Much has happened for the Red Bull-backed Australian since.

He served as a Friday driver for Toro Rosso in the opening races before being loaned to Hispania Racing Team in July. Sunday's race will be his ninth for the Spanish team.

Ricciardo is quick to credit the importance of his work in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago for getting him to where he is now.

"It was important," he said. "It was probably more important that I was quickest because the car was arguably the best one out there and I think [Red Bull] expected me to be quickest.

"I think that proved a few things and probably helped give me the opportunity I have been given this year" to drive for Hispania.

Despite Hispania's continued struggles in their second season in the sport, and their usual starting position on the back row of the grid, the Perth-born racer believes he is improving with every grand prix.

"Just doing a race distance, you cannot compare anything to that," Ricciardo said.

"You can do long runs in testing and can get an idea of what a tyre does or how the car behaves when it burns off fuel, but to actually do it in a race situation is something else.

"If I do get a seat somewhere next year it will definitely get me off on the right foot and already have a bit of momentum before the season starts."

Ricciardo has been linked with a move back to Toro Rosso as a full-time driver for next season, but he has been kept guessing at the intentions of his Red Bull bosses.

He said that Dr Helmut Marko, the racing consultant to Dieter Mateschitz, the Red Bull owner, gives little away.

"Dr Marko still says 'hi' to me, so I think I am still in his good books," he said in jest.

"Every time he comes up to talk to me I get a bit excited but then he says something about the week or what is going on now and it is not about the future."