Daniel Ricciardo’s introduction at Formula One team Renault begins new chapter after decade at Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo (right) is making a new F1 start at the Renault team in 2019 following a long stint at Red Bull. (AP/PA: Andrew Matthews)
Hand on heart, and kitted out in new black and yellow overalls, Daniel Ricciardo says it feels right to be with Renault — even if he has yet to develop a Frenchman’s taste for frogs’ legs and snails.
- Daniel Ricciardo tells Renault: “I definitely feel part of the team”
- Ricciardo won seven races for Red Bull but ongoing car problems prompted his decision to leave
- He acknowledged in a podcast interview he was frustrated possible moves to Ferrari or Mercedes didn’t come off
The smiling Australian, a seven-times race winner with Red Bull, is preparing for a new chapter in his Formula One career at a team eager to get back to the top after returning as constructors in 2016.
His decision was not an easy one, with plenty of nights spent agonising before he made his mind up on a flight from London to Los Angeles last August, but he says he has no doubts now about the move.
“Even if I really didn’t feel it, I’d probably try and make up something that it did feel right. But, hand on heart, it does feel right,” Ricciardo told reporters ahead of the launch of his team’s new car on Tuesday.
“The process of deciding what to do was stressful but once I’d literally made the call, I was instantly de-stressed and that hasn’t changed.”
The Australian’s relaxed and bubbly personality, and laughing manner, have already put a spring in the step of his new teammates.
Ricciardo had the assembled factory workforce eating out of his hand as he addressed them on Monday night, assuring them he was “stoked” and “it all feels real now in the suit”.
“I definitely feel part of the team,” he declared.
“From the few I have met already, you’re not bad. I think we can become friends.”
He sounded a slightly less cheery note, however, on a podcast with Sky F1 reporter Natalie Pinkham, which was recorded late last year but released last week.
Pinkham asked him whether he was frustrated by the failure to clinch deals at either Ferrari or Mercedes.
“Yes, to answer it bluntly,” Ricciardo said.
“At the end of the day, in the next 12 months I still think, and everybody would say this, that Mercedes and Ferrari are going to be the teams to beat.
“Maybe other teams could take a win here or there, but I think they’re still the teams to beat.”
Renault F1 Team tweet: From strength to strength, building on the success of each year. From 9th, to 6th, to 4th. From new beginnings, to a new era. Here starts our 2019 season. #RSspirit
Renault Sport Racing managing director Cyril Abiteboul told reporters Ricciardo could be the spark needed to ignite the team on track.
“It’s been a huge boost, a huge motivation,” he said of the Australian’s arrival alongside German Nico Hulkenberg.
“We’ve put a lot of the right ingredients in three years in terms of people, resources, investment but at some point you need something that is igniting the mixture.
“And that is the sort of thing I’d like to see coming from Daniel.”
Frustrating end to Red Bull stint
Daniel Ricciardo had highs and lows at Red Bull, but repeated retirements in 2018 led to him finding a new team. (AP: Alfredo Estrella)
Ricciardo had nearly 10 years at Red Bull, including time at feeder team Toro Rosso and time as a test driver.
His exciting and fearless driving won him plaudits and made him a fan favourite, but he couldn’t fully deliver on his potential, partly owing to problems with his car.
It still came as somewhat of a surprise when he announced last August he would depart at the end of the season.
A record eight retirements in 2018 sent his frustration levels soaring — the Perth native took pole at the Mexican Grand Prix before his race ended early and he had to watch as teammate Max Verstappen won.
“I don’t see the point of doing the next two races,” Ricciardo said after the race.
“I haven’t had a clean race or weekend in so long. I’m not superstitious or any of that … but the car’s cursed. I don’t have any more words.”
Ricciardo said his dream was to do at Renault, world champions in 2005 and 2006, what five-times world champion Lewis Hamilton has achieved with Mercedes after his well-timed move from McLaren.
“There’s definitely part of that which inspires me. If I was able to do that here I wouldn’t complain,” he said.
Other aspects of working for a French team were more of an acquired taste.
“I did eat snails and frogs’ legs and pigs’ feet the other day. That was my induction into being French,” he revealed with a grin, recalling a trip to Paris with food served up by a leading chef.
“Knowing they were things I wouldn’t [normally] eat kind of put me off. So the frogs’ legs, I didn’t know what they were.
“And when I ate them I was like, ‘Ah, it’s kind of chicken or fish’. So it wasn’t that bad.
“Then when he told me it was frogs’ legs…”