Daniel Ricciardo reckons his strong relationship with teammate Max Verstappen's would continue even if both Red Bull drivers were locked in a Formula One title fight against each other.
A slow start to the year, coupled with a plethora of reliability issues, denied Red Bull the opportunity to challenge for either F1 world championships last season. Ricciardo took advantage of a chaotic race in Baku to claim the team's sole victory from the first half of what was ultimately a frustrating year for both drivers.
Strong development throughout the season enabled the Milton Keynes-based outfit to fight for race wins on merit in the latter stages, with Verstappen claiming a pair of victories in Malaysia and Mexico, and Red Bull is hoping to combine those gains with the lessons learned from the windtunnel problems that hindered its progress in the opening rounds, to mount a fully-fledged title charge in 2018.
When asked if he felt he could remain friends with Verstappen if the RB14 proved to be a championship-winning car, Ricciardo said: "I hope so, keep him on my birthday list. So we'll see. We said at the start of 2017 it would be a good problem to have. If we're both fighting at the front and having some battles. If it's ultimately deciding a world title we would happily run with that challenge. So, yeah, we'll see.
"We again had high hopes for that [last year]. I believe in 2018 we will close the gap. Is it enough to fight for a title? I think we can certainly get close but we'll see. I don't want to predict too early. I'm sure we've learned a lot and I believe we're going to put in the right work in the winter to start strong.
"And then that'll be exciting. Max improved in 2017 from 2016. I think he... I won't say came a long way because he was always there but he certainly improved and I think it's going to be a lot of fun, so looking forward to that."
Verstappen was one of the standout performers last year and beat Ricciardo 13-7 in qualifying head-to-heads, though Ricciardo's finished ahead of the Dutchman in the championship. Despite an odd moment of friction following their opening-lap clash in Hungary, Verstappen said he shares his teammate's belief that the pair would continue to avoid intra-team dramas in a title fight scenario due to the shared mutual respect both drivers have for one another.
"I think so because we respect each other," Verstappen replied when posed the same question. "For sure when you fight for the World Championship it will get a bit more tense, I think, on the track but at the end of the day, you always come back to where you respect each other and you have to accept if one guy is faster than the other and I think that's what we can do. And also, when somebody has a good race, we can really say to each other 'well done' and 'you really deserved that'. And I think that's also very important."