MONZA, Italy (AP) — Relieved that the wait is over, Daniel Ricciardo is getting mentally prepared for the challenge of racing for Red Bull next year.
After weeks of speculation, Red Bull signed Ricciardo from Toro Rosso to a multiyear deal on Monday. The Australian will replace Mark Webber, who will retire from F1 at the end of the season to race sports cars.
The 24-year-old Ricciardo had been the favorite to fill the Red Bull seat since the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of July, and the decision was expected to be announced at the Belgian GP two weeks ago. Then there was talk that Kimi Raikkonen or even Fernando Alonso would replace Webber.
"I think it's a bit of relief now there's no more speculation and dodging questions ... I found out few days before the announcement but I still didn't know at Spa, so no lies were told," Ricciardo said Thursday ahead of this weekend's Italian GP. "Everyone knows now, so it's nice. I've got eight more races this year, so looking forward to giving Toro Rosso a nice farewell."
Ricciardo has a best result of seventh place this season — at the Chinese GP in April — and four top-10 finishes. But he will be expected to do much better alongside three-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel and score big points in a faster car.
"I'd love to be as competitive as I can as quickly as possible," Ricciardo said. "I'm pretty fortunate to have spent some time with Red Bull racing as a reserve driver. By December, hopefully, I'll already have a good relationship with the guys and see how they work. But I've got a head start."
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