But after the early struggle of last season, the team changed tack for 2018 and will now be among the very first teams to launch their new contender next week.
"Last year we realised already at the winter tests that we were behind Mercedes and Ferrari," Australian Ricciardo told Speed Week.
"This year we want to be in good shape from the beginning. We want to be on the podium in the first race."
In 2017, Red Bull's late season progress was notably thwarted by Renault, the third-best engine in F1 whose unit was also unreliable.
Ricciardo said: "It is clear that the reliability and efficiency are better now.
"We are working hard with the aerodynamics and if our calculations are correct, then we will be in good shape in Melbourne and fighting for a place in the top three."