“Max is a serious F1 driver and that’s actually really good for me,” said Ricciardo in an interview with Red Bull.
“It’s definitely a good motivation. I said when I joined Red Bull and I came up against Seb [Vettel] that I wanted to come up against the best and challenge myself. Now Max is the newest challenge for me and I think he’s a big one.
“In a way I think that it’s good that he’s having this success because if I can get on top of that then it’s only good for me and probably for both of our careers.”
Ricciardo led for 30 laps in Spain, but fell to fourth behind Verstappen and both Ferraris after his three-stop race strategy had played out. The Australian, who has said he believes Red Bull’s strategy calls ultimately cost him a shot at victory, admits he’s had a difficult time moving on since the race - and has experienced very mixed feelings.
“It’s a tough one. Part of me is happy that the team is winning again, and I think part of me is happy that everyone is super motivated and confidence is high. So that’s obviously a positive I’m trying to draw myself to.
“But obviously from a personal side [Spain] was massively frustrating. Sure it’s a team sport but you are doing it for yourself as well, and it’s as individual as it is team and that balance is a tricky one to try to always try and manage. But obviously from a personal side it’s still a hard one to take.”
Red Bull currently sit third in the constructors’ standings, 15 points behind Ferrari. However, Ricciardo says the progress the team have made in recent weeks - and at the post-race test in Barcelona where they ran an upgraded power unit as well as several new aerodynamic parts - should see them coming on “stronger and stronger” over the next few races.
“I think some things we found in the test are pushing us closer to the front,” he said.
“So far the season has been better than expected. I’ve had four fourth [place finishes] in five races - the first two fourths were really good, but since then I think those fourths should have been better.
“I don’t feel we’ve got the most points that we could have, but definitely in terms of competitiveness we’re better than we thought.
“I still sit here positive and happy with our position, and definitely excited - though not too excited - that we can fight for a lot more podiums this year.”
Ricciardo lies fifth in the driver standings on 48 points, one place and 10 points above Verstappen.