'Never looked happy': F1 world reacts to Daniel Ricciardo bombshell

Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren move has F1 fans excited. Pic: Getty

Formula One fans are already excited over what the 2021 championship has in store after a dramatic shake-up this week that sparked a game of musical chairs for drivers.

Hot on the heels of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel's bombshell announcement that this would be his last year with Ferrari, McLaren announced the signing of Daniel Ricciardo for 2021.

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The Aussie is a replacement for Carlos Sainz, who will take Vettel's place on the grid at Ferrari.

Ricciardo will leave Renault at the end of this campaign, yet to start because of coronavirus, and will race alongside Lando Norris after being signed to a "multi-year agreement" with McLaren.

The Australian surprisingly left Red Bull, a team with whom he had won seven races in five seasons between 2004 and 2018, to sign a two-year contract with Renault.

However, Ricciardo's first season was fraught with difficulty and he failed to make a podium.

It seems he has now decided McLaren, who will switch to Mercedes engines in 2021, are the better bet for his long-term prospects.

Sky Sports F1 commentator Martin Brundle says while Ferrari would undoubtedly have been a strong move for Ricciardo, he believes the Aussie just needed to move on from Renault.

"Daniel has parked himself at Renault and I don't feel he's ever really looked happy there. It hasn't fitted,” he said. “I don't think it's what he wanted, he took a bit of flak for it, and he would be a perfect fit for Ferrari as well I believe. I'm sure they've considered all options.

"But, equally, a McLaren with a Mercedes engine for 2021, they'll make him feel loved there, they'll make him feel important, and he's still got it. He's got the speed, he's got the race craft, he's very experienced.

“He hasn’t enjoyed it there (at Renault). I barely remember seeing Daniel through last season. We used to see him all the time with that big flip-flop smile but for some reason it just didn’t work for him there.

“The car didn’t play on his speciality of last of the late-brakers.

“It’s a bit of a sideways move but Daniel has obviously seen something at Renault that doesn’t fill him with confidence into the future.”

Brundle's Sky Sports colleague David Croft agrees, insisting Ricciardo's partnership with Renault simply "hasn't worked".

F1.com writer Lawrence Barretto said the fact Renault appeared to be stagnating while McLaren seemed very much a team on the up, made it an easy choice for Ricciardo.

“Ricciardo was left with a choice. Wait until the racing starts and see if Renault were a step forward in reality, or head to a team he knows really want him and are already showing they’re on the move,” Barretto wrote.

“Ultimately, Ricciardo couldn’t afford to take another risk on Renault, despite them being a manufacturer with a healthy budget and impressive facility. In his mind, that could be the end of the line for him in F1. He realised this could be his last big move.”

Ricciardo will partner Norris at McLaren in 2021 - with the pair's reputation for being funny guys of the F1 leaving fans eagerly awaiting the chemistry it will deliver.

McLaren say Ricciardo will add ‘new dimension’

"Signing Daniel is another step forward in our long-term plan and will bring an exciting new dimension to the team, alongside Lando," McLaren boss Zak Brown said.

"I'm hugely optimistic about what Daniel can do for McLaren. He is a thoroughbred race-winner, a committed tough competitor and a great character."

Ricciardo took to Twitter to express his gratitude to Renault before insisting his focus is on the current season, which could start in July in Austria behind closed doors.

"I am so grateful for my time with @RenaultF1Team and the way I was accepted into the team. But we aren't done and I can't wait to get back on the grid this year. My next chapter isn't here yet, so let's finish this one strong. Merci."

Ricciardo's move paved the way for Sainz to put pen to paper on a two-year contract with Ferrari, who described the Spaniard as "an ideal fit with our family".

Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz will both be driving for new teams in 2021 . Pic: Getty

Sainz will race alongside Charles Leclerc at the Scuderia after it was confirmed earlier this week that Vettel would leave the team, with the four-time world champion saying there was "no longer a common desire to stay together".

Sainz, who finished sixth in the drivers' championship last year and claimed his first podium when he came third in the penultimate race in Brazil, is widely expected to be the support driver for Leclerc.

"With five seasons already behind him, Carlos has proved to be very talented and has shown that he has the technical ability and the right attributes to make him an ideal fit with our family," said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto.

"We believe that a driver pairing with the talent and personality of Charles and Carlos, the youngest in the past fifty years of the Scuderia, will be the best possible combination to help us reach the goals we have set ourselves."

with AAP