Daniel Ricciardo did everything he could during the Abu Dhabi GP overnight, but it wasn’t enough to help Renault wrestle its way into third place in the F1 constructors’ championship.
In his final race for the French manufacturer before he joins McLaren for the 2021 season, Ricciardo climbed to 7th from 11th on the grid to end his second season with Renault on a high note.
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The Abu Dhabi race brings to an end a sensational second season with Renault for Ricciardo, who in 2019 struggled in his first season away from the Red Bull Racing team where he won seven races.
After Renault copped heavy criticism for taking a step back in 2019, Ricciardo steered a much-improved showing in 2020, including the team’s first podium since 2011.
He scored their breakthrough podium at the Eifel GP at the Nurburgring, before another at the Emilia Romagna GP at Imola, and also scored extra points for banking the fastest lap at both the Abu Dhabi and Belgian Grands Prix.
Ricciardo’s final tally of 119 points more than doubled his 2019 tally, nearly doubled that of teammate Esteban Ocon (62), whom he out-qualified 15-2 over the season.
After making an alternate strategy pay off, staying out on the track with hard tyres before pitting much later than the rest of the pack, Ricciardo reflected on an impressive season.
“I was pretty stoked with the year in general, (it) was really nice, it was really strong,” Ricciardo said on Sky Sports.
“The race with hard (tyres) worked, went really long and that really set it up.
"At the end, I really risked it all to get the fastest lap.
"So, I get a point, which doesn't change anything.
"But I think honestly, the send-off, in terms of [it being] my last lap in this car, for it to be the fastest on track, it's a nice way to say goodbye to the team."
Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul paid tribute to Ricciardo’s work in helping the team work its way back to F1’s upper echelon.
“So, I’ll say that frankly when he joined we knew that it would take a bit of time, that he was not coming into a turnkey organisation. I think I remember those exact words said to Daniel back in the first meeting back in 2018.
“It was not a turnkey organisation but he made an impact and we are so different today to what we were two years and a half ago when we decided to form this partnership.
“So, in that respect, frankly, it has delivered. It has delivered positively and the irony in all of this is that I believe we are a much stronger team now and he will have to race a much stronger team next year.
“We will be missing hium but ... we’re also glad to see him in a great team and we look forward to an exciting battle against McLaren and Daniel next year.”
Max Verstappen wins season-ending Abu Dhabi GP
Mercedes, who have wrapped up a record seventh straight title double, had no answer to the pace set by Verstappen's Honda-powered car on Sunday.
Unbeaten in Abu Dhabi for six years in a row, with Red Bull's 2013 win in the Gulf Emirate the last time another team tasted victory at Yas Marina, Mercedes were running their cars with their engines turned down due to reliability concerns.
That denied them the satisfaction of capping a dominant season on a high, with the Brackley-based team signing off with 13 wins from 17 races.
Verstappen's victory denied Hamilton a 12th win of the season, which would have made 2020 his most successful year yet, with the Briton never having won more than 11 races in a single campaign.
"It was really enjoyable out there today," said Verstappen, who ended the season third behind Hamilton and Bottas in the standings, after taking his 10th career win and second this year.
"We did basically everything alright."