Daniel Ricciardo could be forgiven for feeling a pang of jealousy as he watches former teammate Max Verstappen emerge as a genuine title contender this season, but the Aussie F1 star isn’t thinking about what might have been.
After leaving Red Bull at the end of 2018 for an up-and-down two-year stint at Renault, Ricciardo is taking baby steps in his first season with McLaren. He’s out-qualified Lando Norris in the first two races of the season, but has been slower than his teammate on both race days.
Stream Every Practice, Qualifier & Race of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship™ Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
He’s finished seventh and sixth — forced to obey team orders and give way to Norris in Italy because the young Brit had more pace than him.
As Ricciardo battles through the teething problems he says he expected with sitting behind the wheel of a completely new car, Red Bull is flying. Verstappen was second in Bahrain then beat Lewis Hamilton to win the Emilia Romagna GP and sits just one point behind the seven-time world champion in the drivers’ standings.
It proves Red Bull is delivering on what many pundits predicted was the year it finally gives Mercedes a serious challenge for the world title, and Verstappen is leading the charge.
It’s been suggested Ricciardo must be despairing seeing his former team doing so well, especially given he’s endured a bumpy ride since leaving the Bulls. The question has been asked whether jumping ship in 2018 was the biggest mistake of his F1 career.
But Ricciardo isn’t looking in the rear view mirror. Even if he didn’t leave Red Bull when he did to join Renault, he says he still would have signed elsewhere by now.
Staying put at the end of 2018 wouldn’t have been a long-term thing and the Honey Badger couldn’t see himself driving at Red Bull three years later, whatever the circumstances.
“No regrets, nah,” Ricciardo told EFTM’s Trevor Long in an exclusive interview of his decision to join Renault. “It is true, no regrets.
“I got asked the other day, ‘Looking at Red Bull this year it looks like maybe they can fight for a championship, do you wish you were still there?’ or ‘Do you think you still would have been there?’
Ricciardo is building up to his best at McLaren.Source:Getty Images
“I said even if I didn’t move that year, even if I stayed with Red Bull instead of Renault for that one or two years, I think even by now, this year, I would have moved.
“I couldn’t have seen myself spending another three years there.
“Regardless of whether I went to Renault or not, I still don’t see myself, I didn’t see myself at Red Bull in 2021.”
There was speculation Ricciardo left Red Bull because his relationship was Verstappen was fractured, and he was upset the team was giving his younger comrade preferential treatment.
Ricciardo has always maintained it was just the right time for a change in scenery. He couldn’t see himself winning a world title at Red Bull, and rather than settle for occasional podiums and race wins, he took a risk in the hope it would pay off with a world championship a few years down the line.
Ricciardo wasn’t expecting to challenge for the title in his first year or two with Renault but he wasn’t seeing the progress he’d hoped for. He saw more upside with McLaren, who showed massive improvement to finish third in the constructors’ championship last year.
It’s why the 31-year-old opted to swap yellow and black for orange, even if he’s aware success won’t be immediate.
Asked by Long if he can win a world title with McLaren, Ricciardo said: “Yeah — if it’s a yes or no, it’s yes.
“Is it this year? No. But already in the first couple of races, I look at my lap on the weekend (in Italy), I’m still pretty confident I’m not getting everything out of it (the car), and I’m four tenths off pole or something.
“The team’s closed the gap a bunch. The rule changes are going to change everything next year. I feel like what the team’s done, and this year looks another step in that right direction, the structure, stability — guns are blazing down here and it’s really cool to see.
“That fills me with a lot of confidence to give you a ‘yes’ to the question you asked.”
Ricciardo is happy he made the move to McLaren.Source:Getty Images
Source: Read Full Article