EVERYBODY loves Daniel Ricciardo, even his fiercest rivals.
The Australian's Formula One future has become a topic of discussion in recent weeks because his contract with Red Bull is set to expire at the end of next year.
His team is keen to keep the 28-year-old alongside rising star Max Verstappen - who recently committed to a contract extension that runs through the 2021 season - but that won't stop rivals Mercedes and Ferrari making inquiries.
Ricciardo's marketability - let alone his driving talent - makes him a hot commodity. And the number ones at the two leading teams - Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) - would welcome the addition of the Aussie.
"Daniel is a fantastic driver, it would be a privilege to race against him," Hamilton said.
"He's a great character, he always bring a lot of positivity within his team."
Ricciardo fuelled speculation of a move to Mercedes at the recent US GP by declaring the Brit was the man he'd love to be able to directly compare himself to.
"I've said for a long time (Fernando) Alonso or Lewis would be the guys I'd love to see myself against," Ricciardo told ESPN.
"Alonso's getting towards the tail of his career so Lewis at the moment is more desirable for me to go up against. So I would like that.
"Obviously I had the chance with Seb (Vettel), I've had it with Max (Verstappen) and I'm going to have it again with Max for at least one more year. But while Lewis is in his prime I would like to challenge and see."
Hamilton welcomed the comments but added a word of caution.
"I think it's interesting, I think it's cool, I take the compliment that people say they (want to race against me)," he said.
"I don't truly necessarily believe that people want to be up alongside me because that is not always necessarily the best thing for an individual. But in some cases, it could be a really good thing because it can help you grow.
"You look at Daniel, he's got a great driver in his teammate (Verstappen) and to be honest, he has got to really work to outperform him first.
"You've always got to beat the person you're with first before you can look at competing against someone else and beating them."
Hamilton, who can wrap up his fourth world title in Mexico this weekend, is currently partnered by Valtteri Bottas but holds no fear of anyone joining his garage. "I already feel like I've raced against the best here, which in my personal opinion is Fernando (Alonso)," he said.
As for Vettel, who partnered Ricciardo at Red Bull in 2014, he's also open to a reunion.
"I don't mind, I like Daniel," said Vettel, whose current teammate Kimi Raikkonen is 38. "In the end, it's not my choice, it's the team's. But if you are not prepared to race whoever it is, then what is the point of racing."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.