Daniel Ricciardo has thrown down the gauntlet and made it clear to Lewis Hamilton that he 'won't have anything easy' in 2017. The Australian is confident Red Bull Racing will be competitive and challenge Mercedes for wins and podiums more often than they did in 2016.

The Austria-owned team made the biggest step forward last season, and for the first time in three years the dominant Silver Arrows team was put under pressure in more than a few races. But it was not enough to stop them winning their third consecutive drivers and constructors' titles.

Nico Rosberg won his first drivers championship in 2016 and immediately announced his retirement. It came as a shock to the Formula One community, but Ricciardo admits that after the initial surprise it is easy to understand the reasons behind the German calling time on his career. Valtteri Bottas will partner Hamilton next season at Mercedes and when asked if he is favourite for the title, the four-time race winner indicated that Red Bull's 2017 car – from what he has seen – has the capability of closing the gap further on the reigning world champions.

"I think we can challenge, yes. If we make the same improvements we did last year then he won't have anything easy, believe me," Ricciardo told F1's official site.

"2016 was really encouraging for the whole team. We found ourselves fighting again for wins, podiums and pole positions. It was a great step closer to where we want to return to. And from what I hear about the new car, I would definitely risk a bet in our favour.

"At first it was a surprise, but once I went through it in my head and put myself in his shoes I understood it a lot better. He has a family now, he's been involved in the sport even before he was racing himself through his dad Keke, so it's a long career in that respect. It drains you with all the travel and commitments and he reached what he wanted, so now it's time for him to chill out. I get it mate!" the Australian said of Rosberg's decision to retire from the sport.