Daniel Ricciardo faces an uphill challenge to claim his maiden Formula One Drivers’ Championship crown in the 2016 season.
The Australian lies in third place in the standings behind the irrepressible force of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton has had a stranglehold at the top of sport over the past two seasons, and appears to be closing in on a historic third title in a row.
The chasing pack, including Rosberg and Ricciardo, has nine races left in the campaign to stop the Brit from joining Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel as the only men to win three crowns on the bounce.
As a result of the points margin between Ricciardo and Hamilton, the latest betting odds at 32Red Australia have backed the 27-year-old at 150-1 to overhaul the Brit and Rosberg to clinch the title.
The Red Bull driver faces a tough challenge to accomplish the feat, having failed to record a victory in his last two seasons, a run that stretches 38 races.
Ricciardo’s last triumph on the circuit came in the 2014 campaign at the Belgian Grand Prix when he capitalised on a collision between Rosberg and Hamilton to beat out the Mercedes duo.
His win at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps capped a breakout season for the Australian as he finished third in the Drivers’ Championship after notching three victories and five further trips to the podium.
The Australian would have had ambitions of pressing forward in 2015, but failed to live up to expectations, scoring just one podium finish as he collected 92 points over the 19 meets.
After his underwhelming performance, Ricciardo had a point to prove at the start of the current season and began on a strong note, notching three fourth-place finishes on the spin.
Since the Russian Grand Prix, where he finished 11th, the Australian has found a solid level of consistency. Ricciardo’s talents were on full display at the Monaco Grand Prix when he snatched pole position away from Hamilton and Rosberg.
However, his tactics following the deployment of the safety car allowed the Brit to take the lead during the early stages of the race. Despite his best efforts Ricciardo was unable to re-establish himself as the meet’s frontrunner due to an error by his crew, allowing Hamilton to claim an important victory.
The 27-year-old has managed to keep himself in contention for the crown with strong displays in the Hungarian and German Grand Prix where he returned to the podium with third- and second-place finishes respectively.
Despite his impressive drive at Hockenheim, he trailed winner Hamilton by six seconds, highlighting the work the Australian has to do to close the gap in the remaining nine races of the season.
Ricciardo and his Red Bull car have the pace to match that of the Mercedes as the 27-year-old recorded the fastest lap in Germany, but the control of Hamilton’s drive proved to be the difference between the duo, allowing the Brit to claim the win.
To make a remarkable charge towards his maiden title, the Australian has to become more clinical around the circuit to overhaul the Mercedes pair with nine flawless performances.
Opportunity will present itself at the Belgian Grand Prix, the site of his last triumph on the circuit. A victory there would help close the significant gap between him and Hamilton, putting the pressure back on the three-time champion who will start at the back of the grid due to an engine penalty.
Ricciardo will also eye his chances in Singapore where he has fared well during his career. Last season he was narrowly edged out by Vettel on the line, although the second-place finish was his best display of the term.
His previous outing in 2014 was equally impressive as he notched a place on the final rung of the podium, but the Australian will need to be even better in his next outing at the Marina Bay Street Circuit to secure maximum points.
The 27-year-old will have to vastly improve his record in the latter portion of the season on the circuits where he has struggled to challenge, none more so than the Brazilian Grand Prix where his best display has been a 10th-place finish in 2014.
It will take a huge effort for Ricciardo to pull off the feat, and even if he is unsuccessful a strong end to the campaign could see him take momentum into the new season where he may be able to provide a tougher opposition to Mercedes’ dominance.