Webber: Ricciardo should set focus on beating Verstappen

Former Red Bull driver Mark Webber believes Daniel Ricciardo should focus his attention on beating teammate Max Verstappen at the start of this season rather than worrying about his 2019 contract.

Ricciardo's existing deal with Red Bull is due to expire at the end of this season and the Australian is keeping his options for 2019 with potential vacancies at both Mercedes and Ferrari.

But Webber, who drove for Red Bull between 2007 and 2013, thinks Ricciardo's main aim should be beating his teammate Verstappen.

"I think the best thing he can do is beat Max," he told Fox Sports. "That's the best thing he can do. Which he knows, and he's going to do his best to do that.

"If he wants to try and have a crack at that for five-six months, then look at the options."

Last year Verstappen signed a new contract to remain at Red Bull until 2020, with team boss Christian Horner saying the Dutchman can now "build the team around him". During his time alongside Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull, Webber claimed the team showed favouritism to the German, but he is confident Ricciardo will not face the same challenges alongside Verstappen.

"Red Bull will support the guy that's leading the championship and doing the business," he said. "If that's Daniel, I reckon he's still in great shape there, to be honest, because he is a Red Bull product.

"I don't think Helmut [Marko] would be disappointed to see Daniel as world champion. But he loves Max as well. They're both his favourite guys.

"But if he's beating Max and Red Bull are flying again, why would he leave? At the end of the day, I don't think Dan's too bothered what colour the car is. He just wants to win.

"That's what he's aiming to do, and it's hard to win consistently. They don't hand them out. He's totally capable of it, but he's just got to find himself in a position where he can get that opportunity."

Asked if Ricciardo could be a candidate to partner Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes should Valtteri Bottas not secure a contract extension beyond 2018, Webber added: "That [prospect] is like a dog's balls, everyone can see that coming.

"There's an obvious link -- they're both out of contract, he's a top-flight driver and there's a chance for a switch. I don't think Mercedes will be rushing to make a decision either, they're going to keep a good eye on Valtteri and see how he's performing, probably until Canada."