Daniel Ricciardo will be happy with his debut Formula 1 campaign if he can maintain his recent race form.
The Australian finished within four seconds of both Marussia Virgin drivers in Japan three weeks ago. He followed that up by passing Jerome d'Ambrosio to split the teams' cars in the Korean Grand Prix seven days later. This despite the HRTs being unable to get within a second of the lead Virgin car in either of the qualifying sessions for those races.
Ricciardo, who has only eight grand prix starts under his belt, has set continuing to trouble the Virgins during races as his priority in the final three races of his first season.
"The last two races have gone quite well and if I can continue like that then I will be pretty happy with the season," said Ricciardo. "The Virgins generally have a bit more pace than us, so if we can mix it with them in the race, it's normally a sign of a good result.
"I was particularly happy with Korea, where we had only nine dry laps coming into the race but we still gave the Virgins a really good fight."
Despite being hopeful of continuing to battle with Virgin, Ricciardo fears that HRT will continue to lag behind in qualifying. An HRT has not outpaced a Virgin in qualifying since the Hungarian Grand Prix in July and the 22-year-old believes that focusing on race pace is the correct strategy for the team rather than chasing single-lap speed.
"At Suzuka, I was more than a second off the Virgins," said Ricciardo. "If everything was perfect I would maybe have been another one or two tenths faster.
"For whatever reason, our qualifying pace is a fair way from theirs and it's not down to us being too conservative. They seem to work the tire harder for a lap.
"When I see them not getting away in the race, it puts a smile on my face! It would be nice to give them more of a fight in qualifying, but it's nicer having a stronger race."