A year on from his Formula 1 testing debut in last winter's rookie sessions, Red Bull protege Daniel Ricciardo was called up again by the new champion team for this week's Abu Dhabi test - and started in style with a dominant fastest time.
AUTOSPORT heard his thoughts on the performance afterwards.
Q. That time today would've put you third on the grid at the weekend...
Daniel Ricciardo: Yeah, the team mentioned that so it was quite good. Realistically, I knew I could do a decent job but I really wasn't sure how close I could get to the big boys' times from the weekend, so it was quite cool. A bit closer than I thought.
Q. Did you do a qualifying simulation? How much fuel were you carrying?
DR: It was quite a proper qualifying simulation, but we were a bit safe with fuel. If it was Q3, I think the boys would've taken a bit more out and run a bit closer to the edge, so maybe there's a bit more in there still, which is nice to know.
Q. What was your programme today?
DR: It was mainly just to get me up to speed with everything. There wasn't much development going on for the team. We tried something in the afternoon, something they tried mechanically in the last few races, but it was quite invisible for me so it was still just about driving and trying to do some good times, which was cool. I didn't have to do any aero tests - they haven't strapped anything to the car yet. Maybe tomorrow we'll do a bit more fidgeting with that, a bit more for the technical boys.
Q. How much improvement could you feel in the car from last year? Did it inspire a lot of confidence?
DR: I guess it makes it a bit easier for sure if you know that you've got a fast car and it does all that you want it to. It's quite a pleasure. Throughout the year with World Series, or any junior category, you can get the perfect car, but it's very, very rare and this was very close to it. You brake and you turn and it does everything just as you hope and imagine it will.
Q. How much more at ease were you today compared with the last test?
DR: It was more the nerves, I got that out of the way last year. I was a little bit tense last year, as I guess most people are at their first Formula 1 test. But this morning was okay, I did an installation lap, came in and got into it quite soon after on the first run.
Q. Do you now feel ready to step up to F1?
DR: Yeah, I think it's hard to know when you're exactly ready but I think I've done quite a bit now in the junior categories and now this is my fourth proper day in an F1 car, so it's probably as much as you're going to get at this age and with limited testing it's not easy.
So I think I'm ready and tomorrow we'll try and do a few more long runs, maybe prepare more for a race situation to see how the body holds up, but I think I'm probably as ready as I can be.