"I think we still have to find a bit of time, we still have things to improve, but I think we are close enough to be in the hunt. It’s been a good winter, we did a lot of laps and we’re definitely feeling better about ourselves than we did 12 months ago."
This shapes as a crucial year in Ricciardo's career, for the 28-year-old is off contract and weighing up his long-term future. Discussions with Red Bull won't resume until April, with speculation Ferrari and Mercedes - with spots to fill for 2019 - will come calling. McLaren could also be a suitor.
Ricciardo, fifth last year in the overall standings, desperately wants to become Australia's first world champion since Alan Jones in 1980, but that could be a battle at Red Bull with Dutch teammate Max Verstappen seen as a once-in-a-generation star.
"I’m looking forward to Melbourne now, that’s what my sights are set on. I’d love a good result there. We’ll try to come out with strong intentions. I think we can be close and I’m looking forward to a battle," Ricciardo said.