Daniel Ricciardo believes Lewis Hamilton had the edge over Sebastian Vettel in 2017 by maintaining a "cooler head" in difficult situations.
Hamilton beat Vettel to the championship by 46 points this year after the Ferrari driver's campaign collapsed with a series of poor results in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. Although Ferrari's reliability issues turned the title in Hamilton's favour in Malaysia and Japan, Vettel dropped valuable points in a first lap incident in Singapore and when he was penalised for deliberately ramming Hamilton's Mercedes behind the Safety Car in Baku.
Speaking at a media event in Baku this week, Ricciardo said he rated Hamilton's personal performance above Vettel's this year.
"Looking at Lewis' season, I respect that," he said. "For sure he had a good car but I think Seb's car was also as good and Lewis maintained a cooler head and a better level of consistency and composure. You have to respect that. In the heat of battle he was always very calm and he drove a very good season."
Asked who is the best driver in F1, Ricciardo added: "I think I would take myself out of this because I am for sure the best!
"Lewis, even with the best material, he still had pressure and expectations -- and he's had that since he started F1 ten years ago.
"I think he's always been on a very high level and he's also got a lot of other distractions in his life and can still perform when it counts. I respect him and take my hat off to him -- as a driver he is very competitive.
"Obviously there's also Fernando [Alonso], but it's hard to say with Fernando the last few years because he hasn't had a top car to know. But I think everyone still believes he is one of the top drivers on the grid.
"These are the two names that will always get called up in this current group of drivers. My teammate Max is very strong as well, so there's more than two, but these are the established ones who are very well respected."
Ricciardo believes the car still counts for more than the driver in terms of performance and hopes F1 will redress that balance in future years.
"Lewis has won three of the last four championships, but if he was in a midfield team he wouldn't have three of the last four championships. The car is a big part of it, but you need to be a good driver to get the equipment to the top. You need both. It's still a bit more dominant with the car than the driver, I'd say maybe 75 per cent to 25 per cent.
"If we make it a bit more equal by bringing the driver in a bit more and taking the equipment out then that would be better. A 50/50 would be something more realistic in the near future and hopefully that's the case. Even from Lewis to the guy that's coming last, maybe the lap time says three seconds but the driver is maximum one second. We are all a lot closer than that and it would be great if we could all stay within one second with the equipment because then the racing would be pretty fun."