Daniel Ricciardo’s move to McLaren will be the defining moment of his career, former F1 champion Jenson Button believes.
The Australian F1 ace is in his second season of a two-year deal with Renault, following his stunning defection to the French manufacturer after his successful run with Red Bull Racing from 2014 to 2018.
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Button, speaking about Ricciardo on the In The Fast Lane podcast, said he was surprised when the Aussie driver first switched teams, and that his time at Renault was arguable more impressive than his achievements at Red Bull - despite not yet winning a podium, let alone a race.
“For many months I didn’t get it and I even said to Daniel, ‘I don’t get it, I don’t get your decision to move to Renault’ and I’m sure he has questioned it at times as you always do when you step backwards.
“I know that he is paid a lot of money at Renault but he would also have been paid a lot of money at Red Bull so I don’t think it is a cash issue, or cash the reason behind it.
“I think it goes back to not feeling equal with your teammate and not feeling wanted in the team and I think that is the reason why he made that move.”
Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren move ‘make or break’
A former McLaren driver himself, Button said Ricciardo’s F1 future would hinge on a successful partnership with young teammate Lando Norris at the Woking-based independent.
The historically successful English squad is changing engine suppliers next season from Renault to Mercedes, echoing the team’s successful partnership throughout the last 90’s through to 2014.
“This move to McLaren is a make or break I think for Daniel in his career,” Button said.
“He is still young, but you have got to start moving towards a team that can give you race wins and hopefully fight for a championship.
“It’s an important move for him and hopefully it pays off. McLaren with a Mercedes in the back should be very competitive.”
Button, who won the F1 championship in 2009 with Brawn GP, which went on to become the powerhouse Mercedes factory team, said he was encouraged by what he had seen from Riccardo in what was an inferior racecar compared to what he had raced in his Red Bull days.
“I’m probably more impressed with what he has done at Renault than what he ever did at Red Bull,” Button said.
“To have one over Nico (Hulkenberg) in his first year like that I think is very impressive.
“Now we’ve just seen what Nico can do in a Racing Point, it shows his strength. So for Daniel to do that is very impressive.”