Daniel Ricciardo insists he has no regrets about his decision to leave Red Bull at the end of the 2018 season, even as his former team appears set to battle for this year’s world title.
The Australian signed with the struggling Renault team for 2019, giving up a race-winning seat alongside Max Verstappen. The suspicion remains that Ricciardo believed he’d never be world champion at Red Bull, who viewed Verstappen as the golden child, a relationship very much in the mould of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at the start of the decade.
Ricciardo’s two years in yellow yielded just two podiums, and while his move to McLaren for 2021 has proved a step forward in competitiveness, it’s come at a time when Red Bull has emerged as a legitimate challenger to Mercedes at the front of the field.
But in an interview with Trevor Long from EFTM.com, Ricciardo defended his decision to sign for Renault.
“I got asked the other day ‘looking at Red Bull this year it looks like maybe they can fight for a championship, do you wish you were still there?” he said.
“Even if I didn’t move that year, even if I stayed with Red Bull instead of Renault for that one or two years, I think even by now I would have moved.
“I couldn’t have seen myself spending another three years there.
“Regardless of whether I went to Renault or not, I didn’t see myself at Red Bull in 2021.”
Ricciardo’s departure from Red Bull is still causing angst three years after he announced his move to take up the Renault offer.
In a recent episode of the In the Fast Lane podcast, Sky Sports reporter Ted Kravitz suggested that Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko still hadn’t forgiven Ricciardo for joining their arch-rivals.
At the time of Ricciardo’s departure Red Bull was in the process of splitting from Renault, who had been their long-time engine partners.
This season is shaping as the the biggest challenge for Mercedes since their domination of the sport began in 2014, with Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton separated by a single point at the top of the championship after two races.
Asked if McLaren can join the title battle, Ricciardo was optimistic, but also realistic.
“Is it this year? No,” he said.
“But already in the first couple of races, I look at my lap on the weekend [at Imola], I’m pretty confident I’m not getting everything out of it, and I was four tenths off pole or something.
“The team’s closed the gap a bunch. The rule changes [next year] are going to change everything next year. What the team’s done, and this year looks another step in that direction, the structure and stability – guns are blazing down here, and it’s really cool to see.
“That fills me with a lot of confidence.”
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