Daniel Ricciardo has backed Red Bull to battle it out for the Formula 1 title in 2018 if they can avoid another poor start to the year.
The 28-year-old was hoping to be amongst the frontrunners this year when an overhaul of the technical regulations was expected to boost the Red Bull camp.
But early season reliability issues scuppered their hopes of mounting a serious challenge, although the situation improved towards the end of the season.
Ricciardo's team-mate Max Verstappen picked up two race wins in Malaysia and Mexico respectively and the signs now point to the Red Bull car having potentially the best chassis going into the new year.
As a result, Ricciardo feels the Milton Keynes-based outfit should be looking to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari for honours.
The Australian told Autosport: "We just started off on the wrong foot. But the rate of development has been amazing, so I'm hoping if we can start on the right foot in 2018, you would argue we would be the favourites.
"If we started with Mercedes and Ferrari [levels of performance], our development is pretty strong.
"This year we started off the train. I guess the direction they thought was going to be the right way wasn't.
"All the development was going towards this kind of aero configuration and that wasn't the way to go.
"We saw in testing our car looked very basic. Looks aren't everything but it shows that the performance wasn't there.
"We started in the wrong direction and that spiralled for the first few races and then we brought it back."