Formula One has been busy advertising the imminent release of the second season of Netflix’s Drive to Survive. Undoubtedly, one of the success stories of the first season was Daniel Ricciardo, so much so that he recently was a guest on a popular American TV show due to his profile being raised considerably due to his exploits on and off the track being recorded by the number one streaming service. With added interest comes also the glare of the spotlight so the first 2020 pre-season test was a good opportunity to see what the much-loved Aussie could produce in the slim nosed Renault. The front-on view of the Renault harks back to the 1980s and past success. For Ricciardo, he will be hoping of future success with the French manufacturer and judging from what the final day of testing brought him…that may not be too far away.
During a less than blistering opening season with Renault, Daniel Ricciardo had to observe Red Bull Racing, his former team, claim three victories thanks to Max Verstappen. Austria, Germany and the penultimate race of the 2019 season in Brazil all saw the Dutchman on the top step of the podium. At the time, Ricciardo would say that Red Bull still did not look like returning to being a championship winning team…but following a strong showing in Barcelona this past week at the first pre-season test, Red Bull Racing certainly appear to be the closest rivals of Mercedes – at this stage.
Such belief was confirmed by Alex Albon who declared that this season’s model after driving it for 5 laps was ‘already felt a step forward’.
Daniel Ricciardo’s biggest quality (other than his racing ability) is his smile but he is also very honest and for some…such honesty may not be welcome in the team when the brand is at stake. Televised discussion was had during the lunchtime break of the final day of the first pre-season test between Sky F1’s pundits saying that Ricciardo seems to be less than impressed with his new car and were discussing what might happen if Sebastian Vettel was to leave Ferrari at the end of the season.
As Kimi Raikkonen showed upon returning to The Prancing Horse and retaining his seat several seasons longer than many expected – Ferrari reward loyalty. In his years away from his world championship winning team, Raikkonen never spoke badly about his previous employers. This now is where Daniel Ricciardo’s approach over the coming months is so important.
Already, when speaking to Australia’s Sunday Times, Ricciardo has commented on speculation of his future:
‘I guess it’s probably always going to be there. They always linked me to that [Ferrari] with my Italian roots. But it’s nice to be talked about and still relevant and kind of in the mix as far as names getting thrown around. I would love for 2020 to work out and I stay [with Renault] that’s the easiest and happiest scenario. I wish for that.’
Although not viewed as an ultimatum, one can certainly interpret this to mean that due to the fact that Daniel Ricciardo has only one season left on his contract, should success or visible steps to success not come – then he would be off.’
In any case, the first target for any racer is to better his or her teammate. For Daniel Ricciardo, following the shock departure of Nico Hulkenberg, he now has the talent of Esteban Ocon to be measured up against and the Frenchman certainly showed no signs of rust from a season out of the starting grid seeing how he recorded the third fastest time, of the final day of testing (1:17.102) being bettered only by the reigning champions, Mercedes, who took up the all too familiar position at the top. For Ricciardo, not helped by an engine failure earlier in the day, seventh on the table was his and a time just under 4 tenths from his teammate – albeit on the medium c3 tyre compound as opposed to the Frenchman’s softer c4. However, the signs were positive, as the Perth native himself shared when asked of his thoughts on the first pre-season test of 2020 by Autosport:
“I think my second lap of the day yesterday was a 19.0 or something, so sub 20s very quickly…It was a bit of familiarity you know, obviously getting into the car the second year now, but it certainly did have initial good impressions. So I think getting down to that level of grip and downforce, it was a bit easier than what I remember for sure, or being able to use that level of group. But I guess now, when you start looking for that extra half a second, that’s when it really starts and we’ll see what the car is capable of. But initial thoughts were that there were improvements.
Not much can be told from the first week of a test but what is clear is that Daniel Ricciardo seems positive about his current team and appreciates the development shown. For anyone looking in from the outside, such an attitude could be deemed just as important as any results that the much-loved Aussie produces on track!