Lewis Hamilton would be 'foolish' to underestimate Daniel Ricciardo in 2018 - Horner
Hamilton leaves Ricciardo off his list of strongest drivers in F1; "He's absolutely ready for a championship challenge," says Horner
Lewis Hamilton would be "very foolish to underestimate" Daniel Ricciardo in the F1 2018 world championship battle, according to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
Hamilton won his fourth world championship this season before labelling himself, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Ricciardo's team-mate Max Verstappen as the four strongest drivers currently in Formula 1.
The Mercedes driver was quoted in Motor Sport Magazine saying: "The four strongest drivers I think are me, Fernando, Sebastian, Max. I really hope we are all in the fight next year."
But Horner thinks Ricciardo should also be on Hamilton's list and feels the Australian will be firmly in the title mix if Red Bull can provide a championship-contending car.
"Lewis would be very foolish to underestimate Daniel," Horner told Sky Sports News.
"He's a phenomenal driver, he's arguably the best overtaker in the business. He's driven some great races this year and some great races in his time at Red Bull.
"He's absolutely ready for a championship challenge if we can provide him with the tools to do the job."
Ricciardo claimed one victory and eight more podium finishes in 2017 but his season was undermined by Red Bull's slow start and unreliability as he suffered six retirements.
The former world champions had been predicted to be Mercedes' closest rivals following this year's regulation change but Red Bull were soundly beaten by the Silver Arrows and finished 154 points behind second-placed Ferrari.
Red Bull are understood to have brought forward development of their RB14 in a bid to hit the ground running in 2018, while Horner believes Ricciardo and Verstappen will push each other to new heights next season.
"I'm really excited that we've got the strongest driver pairing in Formula 1," Horner added.
"Max and Daniel, they push each other to such high limits and that's tremendously exciting for us."
Will Red Bull challenge in 2018?
Speaking to Sky F1 at the 2017 season finale in Abu Dhabi, Horner conceded Red Bull needed to learn lessons from a tough year to mount a title bid in 2018.
"If you look at the number of points we have given away through unreliability, it's close to 160," Horner said.
"Engine reliability has hit us really hard. At the beginning of the year we undelivered on the chassis, we didn't hit the ground running. We understood those problems quickly and moved to address them quickly.
"We will take all the lessons from this year into next year and we have a lot to be optimistic about. We are hopeful that the engine situation will improve and we are getting a lot of promises that will be the case.
"But what's been really encouraging is the last 25 per cent of the season. We have had one of, if not the, strongest cars. If we can take that on RB14, we can give Merc and Ferrari a closer fight."