Daniel Ricciardo surely knows Max Verstappen as well as someone who was the Dutchman’s teammate for a bit more than four years in the Red Bull Racing team. Being one of the closest witnesses of the 2021 F1 World Championship battle between his ex-teammate and Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo spoke on Verstappen’s development and progress.
"As a person, I really like Max. For sure, it's been probably easier to get on with each other post-teammates, because we don't have that head-to-head, as you'd call it," he said in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com.
"But I think also he's matured, you know, so I like the way he goes about his business as well. We are quite different, but I think he's very true to his word, not much bullshit that goes on. I definitely like him and respect him for that.”
"As a driver, look, I remember his very first practice session in Barcelona, when he got into Red Bull, and he was on it straight away. I remember seeing the data and I was like, 'OK, he's not messing around!'.”
"I think he has that speed, that raw speed, that lack of fear. Now he's got that maturity to really make him a top, top, top tier [driver]."
Max Verstappen was only 17 years old when he made his debut at Scuderia Toro Rosso and was subsequently promoted to Red Bull replacing Daniil Kvyat. Ricciardo spoke on the years shared with Verstappen before he left the team at the end of 2018.
"It was fun. There were definitely some on-track collisions, but it was never… I think for how fierce we were, I think we handled it pretty well. The debriefs and that were never hostile. I think we exchanged information pretty well. I think [our Race Engineers] were good, there weren't any kind of secrets and I think they were pretty open with each other - so actually, the environment was pretty good, explained Ricciardo.
"From a car point of view, a setup point of view, I never questioned equal equipment. But sometimes, the point of view, I didn't feel was equal in some situations - Baku being the biggest one," he commented, remembering the crash the Red Bull drivers had in Azerbaijan in 2018, where the Australian thinks he was mostly blamed for the incident.
"That's where I felt like a little bit unsteady. Insecure, I guess. I know with Webber and Vettel sometimes there was a front wing, this and that, who gets this part? I honestly never had that."
Finally, like most others on the grid, the McLaren driver was asked about his view on the hypothetical championship win for the 24 year old.
"If it's not this year, I think it's inevitable that he wins a world title. Not to say that it's an easy thing to achieve, but I think he has all the traits to do it."
"Also his racecraft is good, I like that he goes for gaps. I see a lot of similarities in the way he goes about racing, so that I can certainly respect."
"Until the day I stop… I'll always believe I'm the best. I think the day I stop will be the day that I no longer believe I'm the best driver. Is Max the second best? Probably! Probably!"