A leading Formula One writer has questioned Daniel Ricciardo’s move to McLaren, suggesting he might actually fall further back in the standings as a result.
The Australian driver will leave Renault and race for McLaren in 2021 and beyond.
‘DEAL-BREAKER’: Truth about Ricciardo's Ferrari 'snub'
The 30-year-old, winner of seven races for Red Bull, will partner British driver Lando Norris and replaces Spaniard Carlos Sainz who will join Ferrari as four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel's replacement.
With McLaren finishing ahead of Renault in the 2019 championship, Ricciardo undoubtedly sees the move as a step back towards the podium.
However British reporter Joe Saward reckons Renault actually have a better chance at success in 2021 than McLaren.
“I don’t see Daniel moving to McLaren as a step up, I see that as a step sideways, probably because he wasn’t very comfortable at Renault,” Saward said on the ‘Missed Axel’ podcast.
“I was a little bit surprised that you would go from a manufacturer team, with its own engines, to a tertiary-level Mercedes team.
“McLaren used to be a great team, but there’s a lot to prove.”
McLaren engineer moving to Renault
Saward suggested McLaren’s success in 2019 was largely due to engineering director Pat Fry, who’s moving to Renault in 2021.
“The biggest problem (Renault) had a couple of years ago was the engine, it wasn’t powerful enough. But now the engine is powerful enough, and last year their problem was that the chassis wasn’t good,” Saward said.
“They’ve changed the chassis department around, they’ve brought in Pat Fry. What did Pat Fry do last year? He made McLaren do well. It was Pat Fry who made that happen. He’s now left McLaren.
“So, going to McLaren from Renault might not be the smartest thing that Daniel Ricciardo ever did, because Pat Fry might be taking all that knowledge to the team that Daniel’s just left.”
Meanwhile, former world champion Jenson Button says Ricciardo might have a difficult time gelling with new teammate - 20-year-old Brit Lando Norris.
“Going up against Lando is different because he’s a young gun and doesn’t really have anything to prove at the moment,” Button told Skysports.com.
“It’s always a tricky atmosphere when you go up against someone very young that’s very talented and life’s just easy for them at that moment in time.
“It puts more pressure on your shoulders as the team leader. I’m looking forward to seeing how that relationship unfolds and hopefully the car is competitive so we can see them fighting near the front.”
🗣"It's always a tricky atmosphere when you go up against someone very young that's very talented."@JensonButton discusses Daniel Ricciardo joining his former team, and taking on a 'young gun' in Lando Norris.— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) May 18, 2020
📺 Sky Sports F1 | Sky Sports News#SkyF1 | #F1 pic.twitter.com/B1rV78lCKa
McLaren boss predicting Vettel retirement
Former world champions McLaren had tried to sign Ricciardo in 2018, when the seven times race winner was at Red Bull mulling his options, and CEO Zac Brown said they had “stayed close”.
Brown said he now expects Vettel, who is leaving Ferrari at the end of 2020, to retire.
“Obviously Seb's an awesome driver and a four-time champion,” the American told Sky.
“But I think we were pretty far down the path in the off-season and knew we would either land with Daniel or Carlos.
“We never really entertained anyone beyond that, and especially with Seb's late breaking news -- we were pretty far down the path at that point.”
Brown added that Vettel had limited options if he wanted to continue.
“It doesn't look like there's a Mercedes or Red Bull opportunity for him, there's not a McLaren opportunity for him, clearly not at Ferrari, so the next best is Renault,” he said.
“And the next question is does Seb want to go with a team that is probably not going to win in 2021?
“It's a great team and they too should be moving up the grid but I think unless Seb wants to restart a journey with a team that's back on a journey -- then I think he'll end up probably leaving the sport unfortunately.”