Less than three years ago Daniel Ricciardo was being spoken of by Ross Brawn as a potential Formula One world champion. Having driven alongside Verstappen for the best part of three seasons and beating him in two of them, the Aussie left Red Bull Racing at the end of 2018 for Renault.
Ricciardo saw off Nico Hulkenberg in his first season with the French team and was in the process of demolishing his new team mate Esteban Ocon when Brawn made his observations after the 2020 race in Imola.
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Daniel had clocked up two podiums in the last three races by in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in what is his second and last season with Renault before joining McLaren. He had single handedly raised Renault to P3 in the constructors’ championship.
“Daniel Ricciardo is a brilliant driver and one of the very best in Formula 1,” said Brawn in his regular column on the Formula 1 website. “His drive to another podium was very impressive.
“If he had a Mercedes, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind he would be taking race wins and pole positions and challenging for the World Championship.
“I hope McLaren can give Daniel a car he deserves next season. He’s a great member of the F1 fraternity.”
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Fated words indeed.
McLaren did not give him that car despite Zak Brown’s call to the promised land in Woking. And less than two years later, for many Ricciardo was washed up and his F1 career finished.
Yet can a driver who elicits such praise from a Formula One great such as Ross Brawn be really finished so quickly?
Ricciardo did have options he refused to explore last season if Gunther Steiner of Haas is to be believed.
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Ricciardo better record than Perez
In one episode of Drive to Survive, Steiner and Magnussen are contemplating who could replace Mick Schumacher for the 2023 season.
Kevin Magnussen reportedly showed his excitement at the idea of Ricciardo, but Haas team principal Guenther Steiner quickly dismissed the Aussie joining after looking at his contract demand
“We can’t afford him, Kevin,” Steiner retorted. “He wants 10 f**king million. Minimum!”
It must be remembered excluding the three current world champion drivers on the grid, Daniel Ricciardo has the most Grand Prix wins (8) of all the current drivers, besides Valterri Bottas (10).
Further, Sergio Perez 5 wins have all come in a championship winning car which Ricciardo never had.
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Daniel set his sights high
Ricciardo made it clear from the moment McLaren released him last year he was targeting a top team drive for his return to Formula One.
“I’m not going to do everything…. just to put me on the grid. If it’s not right or it doesn’t make sense.”
Ricciardo continued talking of searching for “an environment I feel I can thrive in. I don’t want to just jump into a car for the sake of it.”
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“Top seat target” still the goal
In an interview with Sky Daniel again confirms he is only interested on returning to F1 if he can secure a top race seat.
“A lot of the reason for taking this year off was that I didn’t want to just jump back into a car, any car just to be one of the F1 drivers.
“And I still don’t see myself starting from scratch and rebuilding a career and going at it for another decade.”
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Opportunities are ‘limited’
Many F1 pundits have parsed every opportunity Riciciardo may have in 2024 but the loveable Aussie confirms he understands the opportunities he seeks are limited.
“I appreciate I might not have every opportunity under the sun, but I want to win. I want to be back with a top team and obviously a team where I have my confidence back and my mojo.”
“I think also that’s where, maybe when I look back that’s a weakness of mine, but in a way it’s a strength as I feel better at the front of the grid. I feel like I perform in those situations with a bit more pressure and a bit more emphasis on a podium.”
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It seems to many F1 observers that Ricciardo has little hope of achieving his ambition, or is even delusional.
Yet strange things happen in F1, such as Ross Brawn calling out a driver with future world championship potential apparently now being out of the sport and finished just two years later.
Ferrari’s season may prove to be spectacularly poor and the team could then easily part company with either of its drivers.
There are latent tensions at Red Bull between Verstappen and Perez and should the Mexican be soundly beaten this year by his team mate, his option for 2024 may evaporate into thin air.
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Even Lawrence Stroll may wake up and smell the Roses, ditching his son for a driver alongside Alonso who can add further to the team’s tally of points pushing them even closer to the front of the grid.
The ever popular Nico Hulkenberg has demonstrated that even with three full years of no permanent F1 seat, there’s always a way back for a driver who is good enough.
Ricciardo is fortunate because no rookie drivers are coming through and staking a claim to a top drive. George Russell served his three year apprenticeship before he climbed into a permanent Mercedes seat and next in line of the time served juniors is Tsunoda – who has yet to deliver.
However 2024 is Monte Carlo or bust for Daniel. His only poor seasons have been in a McLaren car known to be difficult to drive.
Here’s to hoping Red Bull, Ferrari or Aston Martin – even Mercedes – come calling for Ricciardo, because he deserves to prove his two poor seasons were not merely down to his driving abilities.
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I can’t see him returning full-time for next season in any team, top or lower ones, as driver plans for the medium-long term are clear for most teams.
2025 is another matter, but next season is unrealistic as things stands.
At least nine teams (all bar AT) will most likely continue with their current lineups, including Ferrari, & if a change happened, it’d more likely be for another driver than him.
Lance most certainly won’t get sacked for Ricciardo any more than anyone else.
People have also blown out of proposition the Red Bull Racing tension, so Checo will definitely see out his current contract stint until next year’s end.
Btw, Checo’s first win came in a midfielder, so all bar one in a top team.
I don’t think Ricciardo is better than Perez. Each of them has his strengths and weaknesses, but comparing their times in RBR, I believe Perez has done a better job than Ricciardo. Perez has always been great with tire management and race craft, but over the years, he has upped his overtaking game as well. In contrast, Ricciardo is more error prone and messes up crunch moments. Ricciardo and Perez, both in same or similar cars will see Perez triumph for sure.
Perez is good but not Ricciardo good. Dude was slower than Max than Daniel was to Lando! He has failed to match Max’s pace. Perez is 4xmore Barichello than Barichello!
Perez absolutely better in overtakes and tire management. His first win came in racing point, not a championship car and was faster than Ricciardo in that fiest win with mid car.
Perez is better than Ricciardo in most important ways. Overtake and tire management. With same car, Max was not able to pass him for 40 laps in his last win. First Perez win was in Racing Point and there he was faster than Ricciardo in similar car.
People need to realize that Stroll is one position down on Alonso and that’s still with the injuries fresh.
Give him a few more races
His career is in at an impasse…he is accustomed to a very expensive contract, but has not shown any consistent performance in recent years to warrant it.
Will a top team gamble on him again, or will he accept a smaller payday or lower tier opportunity to prove himself? Time will tell.
Perez will not be replaced by Riciardo. Perez is far too important to Red Bull as a marketing tool in Mexico for that. As long as Perez can compete at the front, he will stay with Red Bull.
You have to be joking me mate Perez might be more popular in the gang country but it’s Dan ahead EVERY WHERE else including USA. Why do you think RB picked him ? He is a marketing gem I reckon he has already boosted RB coffers a few mil.