Daniel Ricciardo's decision to join Renault in 2019 was a 'mistake' according to F1 commentator Martin Brundle - but it was one the Australian had to make.
After deciding it was high time to leave the highly competitive Red Bull outfit in 2018, sensing the team was favouring young superstar Max Verstappen, Ricciardo spent two largely fruitless seasons with Renault before switching to McLaren.
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Two podiums in 2020 soothed the pain from that was a lacklustre 2019 season for the French manufacturer, with the uninspiring first year a major factor in Ricciardo's switch.
Brundle, himself a former McLaren driver, says the switch will be worth it if Ricciardo can stay patient.
After struggling mightily in the early stages of the hybrid power era, McLaren have emerged as the most likely challenger to the front-running Mercedes and Red Bull.
Brundle believes Ricciardo could find himself competing for the world championship at long last if McLaren can ride out the worst lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Renault was a mistake which we all kind of suspected at the time, but I think that was him needing to get out of Red Bull as much as anything," Brundle told the In The Fast Lane podcast.
“I do believe if he’s got the patience, and they’ve got the patience, if he sticks with McLaren, that can take him back to the front of the field.
“McLaren have signed off a new wind tunnel (but) they currently use the Toyota one in Cologne and, with COVID, they’ve not been able to use that much either.
“So, I think he’s going to have to be patient there, because the fruits of this new wind tunnel are not going to come through for two to three years, and I think he’s got that with them.”
McLaren have also been tipped to be major beneficiaries of a rules revolution that will radically alter the aerodynamic design of F1 cars in the 2022 season.
Daniel Ricciardo's cheeky shot at F1 champ
Australian F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo has fired a cheeky shot across the bows of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton ahead of this weekend's Emiglia Romagna GP.
Formula One will return to the Imola circuit once again this weekend after it rejoined the F1 calendar during last season's coronavirus impacted schedule for the first time since 2006.
The circuit is a happy hunting ground for Ricciardo, who scored the second of his two podiums for the season at the Italian circuit while driving for Renault.
Now representing the rising McLaren, Ricciardo clearly has his sights set much higher than third heading into this weekend.
Asked by Square Mile's Ben Winstanley how much of Hamilton's success could be attributed to piloting what has undoubtedly been the strongest package in F1 since 2014, Ricciardo said he felt a little closer to Hamilton in terms of skill than the record might otherwise show.
Mercedes have won every constructors' championship since the introduction of the hybrid power era in 2014.
“To answer it diplomatically, I think Lewis isn’t the only one that could win races in that car," Ricciardo said.
"That’s obviously my opinion and I think that George Russell, in a way, showed the possibility of that by pretty much beating Valtteri (Bottas) in his first race.
"So you could argue that just maybe Lewis doesn’t have the strongest competition."
However Ricciardo also acknowledged that driving the best car on the grid also came with its own set of challenges and expectations, which required a driver of Hamilton's calibre to handle.
Without his particular skill-set, Ricciardo said, Hamilton might not have enjoyed the success he has to date.
"I think, where we can’t be too aggressive or disrespectful to Lewis, is that, do a few of us believe we could beat him? Yes. I’m quite sure of that," Ricciardo said.
"But none of us have ever been in the hunt for a title. None of us have dealt with that pressure. None of us have had that year after year. Pretty much every weekend he rocks up to a race.
"Yes, he has the best car, but he’s also expected to win all the time. And if he doesn’t, it’s, ‘OK, what happened to Lewis?’”
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