Speaking to Squaremile.com, Daniel Ricciardo talked about multiple topics to do with Formula One.
Asked about his opinion on whether Hamilton’s success is down to him or his car, the seven-time Grand Prix winner believes the British driver doesn’t have the hardest fight on his hands with Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes.
“To answer it diplomatically, I think Lewis isn’t the only one that could win races in that car. That’s obviously my opinion and I think that George Russell, in a way, showed the possibility of that by pretty much beating Valtteri [Bottas] in his first race. So you could argue that just maybe Lewis doesn’t have the strongest competition,” said Ricciardo.
However, the Australian also praised the seven-time World Champion for handling the pressure of going for wins and championships on a yearly basis since the V6 era started in 2014.
“I think, where we can’t be too aggressive or disrespectful to Lewis, is that, do a few of us believe we could beat him? Yes. I’m quite sure of that. But none of us have ever been in the hunt for a title. None of us have dealt with that pressure. None of us have had that year after year. Pretty much every weekend he rocks up to a race. Yes, he has the best car, but he’s also expected to win all the time. And if he doesn’t, it’s, ‘OK, what happened to Lewis?’”
After joining Renault in 2019, Ricciardo made a big decision before the 2020 season finally got underway that he would be heading to McLaren in 2021. He confessed that it led to a few sleepless nights, but says McLaren’s momentum played a role in his choice.
“There were a few sleepless nights. But I can’t afford to chance any more seasons,” he said.
“Momentum isn’t just a feeling, it’s also visual. You see it when you walk into the McLaren Technology Centre, there’s people with a spring in their step, there’s happiness and an energy around the workplace. That’s momentum.”
Ricciardo is now a very experienced driver and proven winner. He thinks that within 10 or 20 laps that he can get up to speed in any car, although finding those crucial last couple of tenths is the most difficult part.
Nonetheless, the 31-year-old also confesses that it feels weird when he heads to a new team because of all the changes around him; Ricciardo also admits some doubts in his mind he drives a new car for the first time, albeit briefly.
“I think probably the best way to put it is, I’ve been doing it long enough that I could jump in probably any car on the grid and get up to speed within, call it, 10 laps or 20 laps. But there’s a difference between driving fast and getting that extra tenth out of the car,” said the Australian.
“I guess I’ve been doing it long enough now that I’m probably more, what’s the word? Numb, to all the changes around me. But in saying that, yes, it does always feel weird, like, even the first few laps in the car, you always, kind of, question, ‘Am I going to be scared or is this going to feel OK?” And you wonder if, I don’t know, being detached from the sport for a few months, if that creates something weird, but normally after a few laps, it all feels normal again.”