No Shoeys for Ricciardo in 2019
Formula One fans shouldnt expect a shoey from Daniel Ricciardo in 2019.
But the Aussie F1 star, famous for drinking champagne from his race boot on the podium after a victory, is confident he can maintain his on-track heroics and retain his status as one Grand Prix racings most exciting drivers this season.
Speaking to Drive after lifting the covers off his new Renault racer in the UK yesterday, the seven-time Grand Prix winner - who stunned the F1 paddock in the middle of last year when he announced he was leaving the front-running Red Bull Racing outfit to join the upcoming French factory outfit for the next two seasons - admitted it is unlikely he will have the ability to add to his race-winning tally immediately, but said he isnt afraid of falling into the shadows as the intense mid-field battleground should provide a playground for fierce racing.
"There is a chance I will be less in the spotlight if I’m not fighting for podiums - and that is how it is," he said.
"But there is probably an even bigger opportunity for me to race as hard as I have and pull-off some good overtaking moves, probably starting more in the thick of the pack. I feel as though if I carry myself in the same way I have during the last few years at Red Bull, with the same level of tenacity on Sundays, then my image and reputation should remain pretty strong regardless of whether we’re on the podium or not.
"I think just having that same fight could even shine more in the pack battles, if that is where we are."
Ricciardo has joined Renault - one of only three factory-supported race teams, behind the championship-winning Mercedes-AMG and legendary Ferrari outfit - alongside German Nico Hulkenburg after a decade under the Red Bull banner, having graduated from its junior racing program to join the Toro Rosso in 2012 before being promoted to the front-running Red Bull Racing squad in 2014.
He concedes that it might appear to be a backwards step to armchair critics and fans, but is impressed by the level of investment - both in facilities at its racing base in Enstone in the UK and engine development centre at Viry in Paris, as well as key engineering staff and management - that Renault has the potential to join the front-running teams and become a championship challenger in the next few years.
"I honestly think in the short term I can’t see anyone beating Mercedes - or maybe Ferrari - in the next season, so I don’t think I am really sacrificing any victories," he said, indicating he doesnt think his former Red Bull teams switch to Honda engines this year will yield the outfit much scope for improvement.
"For sure, looking back at 2018 and having a couple [of wins] with Red Bull [is nice] but I definitely had to take a medium-term approach. I want to win yesterday, but I definitely feel this is more of a thought-out process and I do think it will give me wins - I don’t think it will be tomorrow, I am aware of that, but I don’t think it is taking as much of a backwards step as it looks on paper.
"It is going to pay off for me, but… it’s not a money move."
In a sense, Ricciardo looks at five-time champion Lewis Hamilton for inspiration in how his - and Renaults - fortunes could change. The Brit joined the Mercedes-Benz team at a time when it wasnt close to being a front-running outfit. But, since the introduction of turbo-charged hybrid engines, the German team has dominated F1 racing, with Hamilton winning four of the last five world titles.
"I look at bit at what Lewis had done when he joined Mercedes in 2013, which at that stage wasn’t a winning team. I don’t know the details, but I am sure that he - along with everyone else - put some hours in to get where they are today.
"I know it’s not going to happen [at Renault] overnight and it’s not going to happen by just wishing and praying. So I’m prepared to commit to myself [and] there will be some long days but there will be some light. I don’t expect things to happen for nothing."
In the meantime, Ricciardo says Formula One fans are in for some intriguing intra-team battles at Red Bull an Ferrari where team leaders, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel, will be partnered against highly-rated new team mates in Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc respectively.
"I don’t know, he’s getting old now so I would say he’s probably going to plateau," Ricciardo said, half joking about his former team mate Verstappen.
"It will be interesting to see, to follow his rate of improvement. I feel he did improve over the last few years that we raced against each other. But he’s got a younger team mate this year, not in age but in terms of experience so maybe his rate of improvement might steady."
"Just as a fan of the sport, I am interested to see how that goes and how Seb responds if Leclerc is really challenging him," he added about the Ferrari situation.
"Since we were team mates in 2014, it will be interesting to see how he goes if it is a … another tough year for him, and whether Leclerc does live up to the hype. I’ll be keeping an eye on it.
"Seb’s a competitor. He’s passionate, and goes to be bed thinking about F1 and wakes up thinking about. So it’ll be interesting."