F1: Ricciardo reveals the reason behind his move to McLaren
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Daniel Ricciardo has revealed Sebastian Vettel’s departure from Ferrari during the coronavirus lockdown forced him to make a rushed decision about his immediate future in the sport.
Multiple Formula 1 drivers are off contract after the 2020 season’s conclusion, and Vettel’s shock announcement triggered a series of team changes in May. After Carlos Sainz filled the vacant spot at Ferrari, Ricciardo signed with McLaren where he will join British driver Lando Norris in 2021.
Norris will be Ricciardo’s third Formula 1 teammate in as many years.
Ricciardo had a disappointing maiden season with Renault in 2019 — after winning seven Grand Prix titles with Red Bull, the Australian has been unable to secure a podium finish since signing with the French team.
With Sainz and Norris behind the wheel, McLaren leapfrogged Renault to claim fourth spot in the 2019 championship, and Ricciardo believed the British team would continue improving after switching engines to Mercedes for 2021.
“Last year is our best reference. (McLaren) were the team that made the most noise,” Ricciardo told Beyond The Grid.
“They made the biggest step out of all, so that was encouraging. That’s all you can base it off and then the pitch for the future. They are switching power-units.”
Although switching to Renault in 2018 was not a difficult call for the 30-year-old, Ricciardo revealed signing for McLaren was “by no means an easy decision”.
“(Red Bull) had run its course for me. I needed a change,” Ricciardo said. “This was not as clear.
“We didn’t achieve what we wanted last year. I don’t know. It was by no means an easy one, and time will tell.”
Ricciardo conceded Vettel’s departure rushed his decision to sign with McLaren. He may have lost the seat if he waited for the Formula 1 season to recommence before making the call.
“I think obviously Vettel’s announcement or news with Ferrari kind of sparked everything,” Ricciardo said.
“And then things were moving pretty quickly around Carlos and all the other stuff.
“Although it seemed like there was maybe still time, I don’t actually think there was, to make movement, if that was what you were going for.
“If you start racing in July, which even then wasn’t 100 per cent, but which we are by the looks of it, you’re not going to find out in the first race or the second race.
“You’re probably going to wait until August or maybe September until you really know where everyone’s at, and then I think it felt like it was going to be too late to get something you were after.”
The 2020 Formula 1 season gets underway next month after several Grand Prix races were cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic. For the first time since February, drivers took part in car testing this week, which proved an uncanny experience for Ricciardo.
“It was certainly different. Our debriefs were happening over video calls. Most of us were sitting in the same area but at distance so we’re all doing our debrief through video meetings,” Ricciardo said.
“Everyone has a mask on in the garage. There is just a little more awareness of personal space. Whenever there’s a change it takes a bit of time to adapt but in time we do adapt.”
Ricciardo hopes to form a healthy rivalry with Norris next year, having already done so with Dutch driver Max Verstappen at Red Bull.
“With Max at Red Bull, I feel like we both lifted each other by pushing each other by being the competitors that we are. I would obviously love that and expect that from Lando, and I say I expect it because he had a really strong rookie year,” Ricciardo told the F1 Nation podcast.
“I’m pretty sure he out-qualified Carlos. That’s quite a statement for his rookie year.
“So I expect him to be there and I think we’re both pretty easygoing once the helmet’s off, and I think people probably have a bit of fun with that but I’m sure we’re going to see some good competition.”