Webber announced his departure from F1, to tackle the World Endurance Championship with Porsche, at last year’s British Grand Prix. Ricciardo was confirmed as his replacement in September, following two seasons racing for Toro Rosso.
The Aussie put in some strong qualifying performances in 2013, often out-performing the car, and Webber expects him to give Vettel a run for his money in 2014.
“He’ll go well. I think he’ll give Seb a real hard time in qualifying – it’ll be 50:50 in the first year, I reckon,” he said in an interview for the March issue of Motor Sport Magazine.
Webber was only able to out-qualify Vettel twice during his last season in Formula 1. “I took a few off Seb last year – and the blown floor is gone now,” he added. “I think Daniel will be fine, and it certainly won’t hurt him that he’s come through the Red Bull system. I just hope he gets better starts than I did.”
The 37-year-old holds Vettel’s ability in high regard, although he still believes Fernando Alonso is the best racer. “I always thought Fernando was the best, and I still do – on Sundays. On one lap, though, I think Seb’s got him covered – and I’m talking in terms of preparation, not just pace,” he said.
“Fernando’s had a lot of poles in his time, but probably age has come into it – you lose a little bit. In the race, though, he’s got more strings to his bow than anyone else, and he’s relentless. Seb’s strengths, as we know, are escaping at the start, and running in clean air – when you get these things in clean air now, it’s a whole other story, in terms of tyres and so on. He’s like a computer, isn’t he? His only weakness was always fast corners.”
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic