AOL Cars Meets: Daniel Ricciardo

Brazil F1 GP Auto Racing

He smiles more than any other driver on the Formula One grid, in fact probably more than anyone we've ever met. And with a grin that infectious it's difficult not to want Daniel Ricciardo to do well this season.

We sat down with him at the launch of Infiniti's new Q70 at West London's Westfield shopping centre, to find out how he's preparing for the new season and stepping into Sebastian Vettel's shoes.

"I feel good. I would have been happy for the last season to keep going, obviously I was enjoying it, but Christmas is a good time as well to reflect on it all," he told us. "I feel like I've learnt a lot from last year and I'm just happy to not change anything this year and build on what I've already achieved."

Pre-season will be underway for all teams from Sunday and the Red Bull boys will get their first taste of what the new car can do.

"I can't wait to drive the car for the first time," he admitted. "It's a weird time for racing drivers because everyone is asking us 'how's the car, how are you going to do this year?' when we haven't even driven the car yet. I mean, the car still isn't even finished. We're testing in a few days and until then I'm not going to know. So it's all guessing and hoping."

With the four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel jumping ship from Red Bull for the prancing horse of Ferrari, it's all changed for the Milton Keynes-based team. So has the reality of being the 'number one driver' at a top team sunk in yet?

AOL Cars meets Daniel Ricciardo

AOL Cars meets Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo said: "To be honest, the 'number one' thing is only something that's going to be determined on track so, I'd say I'm the veteran of the team but hopefully I can prove to be number one with my results.

"Everyone's still pretty cool in the factory, I think like most things, you move on. Seb did a really good stint with Red Bull and I think they'd be greedy if they ask for more than four titles from him."

New, very young blood has been pumped into the team, though, from Daniil Kvyat. The 20-year-old driver has come from Toro Rosso, where he finished 15th in last year's championship. However, the age difference isn't worrying Ricciardo yet: "I still feel young, Dani's obviously extremely young but I don't feel old yet so lets see what this even younger generation has to offer."

Modestly, he admitted: "I think I'll definitely be the best looking guy in the team, that's for sure. Dani is going to be good, I'm sure he'll be fast but I obviously believe in myself."

And Ricciardo can surely relate to the position Kvyat is in, as when he joined Red Bull just over a year ago he'd barely had a chance to stand in the limelight and fans queried whether he could fill fellow Aussie Mark Webber's racing boots.

"It was cool last year, I really felt like I established myself at the front," he said. "A lot of people weren't sure if I had what it takes to make that next step, but I think my race-craft spoke for itself. To race against Hamilton, Alonso and all these guys it gave me a big buzz."

"[When I overtook Vettel for the first time] it felt good. It always felt pretty good, of course, Seb is Seb – he's a four-time champ. I think it was really in Bahrain, that was the first time we had a real battle and I felt like I beat him fair and square for the first time. That obviously gave me a lot of confidence and put a smile on my face."

It might only be two months since the championship was decided, but Formula One fever is setting in. Fans will get their first glimpse of the new cars on track this weekend, ahead of the first round in Melbourne in just over a month.