Daniel Ricciardo believes he can steal this year’s Formula 1 world title from under the noses of at-war Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
From virtually nowhere, Ricciardo has crept up on the rails and is now within sight of Rosberg and Hamilton after winning three of the last six grands prix.
Ricciardo currently trails Rosberg by 64 points and Hamilton by 39 as the pair have tripped over themselves of late to bring the Australian into the running with seven races remaining.
On his debut campaign for Red Bull following his promotion from Toro Rosso, Ricciardo has performed wonders this season heading into round 13 of the championship in Italy this weekend.
However, the 25-year-old realistically appreciates it will require something special from him, and untoward from Rosberg and Hamilton, for him to deny either of the title.
Not that he is going to let that stop him from going for it as he said: “I think I can nick it.
“But it’s obviously going to take probably more than just winning the next seven races. It’s going to take a bit of luck as well.
“I’m more than two wins behind Nico, so if I come out and win two and he DNFs (did not finish), he’ll still be leading. So we’ll see. Obviously there’s more talk about it now, but to be honest I’m not really thinking about it.
“I guess I’m answering all the questions that are asked about the championship, but realistically I’m not thinking about it.”
It is almost reaching the stage where Ricciardo may require Sebastian Vettel to give him a hand.
No-one would have said or thought that at the start of the season with Vettel heading into the campaign on the back of four straight championships.
“There’s no talk or signs of team orders or anything. It’s still early for that,” added Ricciardo. “If I’m still in this position with maybe three or four races to go then it’s probably something which will come up.
“I want to get through this weekend, hopefully damage limitation and not lose sight of it (the title) and if we’re still in the hunt then maybe we will have some discussions.”
With regard to damage limitation, Mercedes undoubtedly have the power advantage at such a high-speed circuit as Monza, putting Red Bull in the shade.
Unsurprisingly, Mercedes finished one-two in practice, with Rosberg ahead of Hamilton after FP2, but with Hamilton’s time from FP1 of one minute 26.187secs the best of the day.
Ricciardo also endured a troubled day, with his car suffering engine issues in FP1, ultimately finishing eight tenths of a second shy of Hamilton’s best lap time.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was the best of the rest, but only a tenth of a second off the pace, with team-mate Fernando Alonso fourth quickest and a third of a second down.
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, Jenson Button and Vettel in his Red Bull were all around half a second adrift in fifth, sixth and seventh.
The team-mates of that trio completed the top 10, with McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen eighth fastest, followed by Williams’ Felipe Massa and Ricciardo.