When Will Daniel Ricciardo Win a Formula 1 World Championship?
Daniel Ricciardo enters his 11th season in 2021, but will his move to McLaren result in him fighting for a world championship?
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Daniel Ricciardo is becoming a veteran of the F1 paddock. In 2021 he lines up in his 11th Formula 1 season. But with 7 wins and 31 podiums to date, will the Australian driver ever achieve that elusive world championship title and is his 2021 move to McLaren a step in the right direction?
Riccardo's Career So Far - The Early Stages (2011-2013)
Ricciardo made his F1 debut at the 2011 British grand prix racing for Hispania Racing Team or HRT, after Red Bull funded his seat for the remaining races of that season. Despite not finishing above 18th position through his 11 races, Ricciardo was a shoo-in to take a seat in the Toro Rosso car for 2012, racing alongside another young Red Bull talent, Jean Eric Vergne who has since gone on to win two Formula E titles with Techeeta, not exactly a walk in the park for the Australian then.
Ricciardo spent two seasons at Toro Rosso, and over the course of 2012 and 2013 he outqualified the Frenchman 30 times versus the 7 occasions that ended up the other way. This dominance in qualifying was one of the key factors that led to Ricciardo gaining his promotion to the senior Red Bull team for the 2014 season – racing alongside the newly crowned four time world champion, Sebastian Vettel.
For me this was a near-miss for Ricciardo, with regard to his world championship hopes. He was unfortunate to join the team as the new engine regulations came into force. Instead, the Australian driver came into the Red Bull team just after their four years of dominance ended.
Riccardo's Career So Far - Red Bull (2014-2018)
Despite this, the 2014 season was really where Ricciardo was able to make a statement and make his mark in the Formula 1 world. At the opening grand prix, his first home race with Red Bull, he managed to qualify in second place, beating the Mercedes of Hamilton. He actually finished, on track at least, on the podium, before being disqualified after the fact for a fuel flow rate infringement. He went on to achieve his first podium in Spain, followed, two rounds later by his first race win of his career in Canada – the first non-Mercedes win of the season.
Ricciardo went on to achieve two further wins over the course of the 2014 season, and finishing third in the drivers’ standings – dominating Vettel by 71 points over the year. It seemed as though Red Bull were in a strong position to fight back going into the 2015 season, Vettel moved on to Ferrari after being decidedly beaten by his younger, less experienced team-mate, meaning Ricciardo had become the defacto number 1 driver at Red Bull.
2015, was a year in which the Red Bull team took a step backwards – although this was not strictly their fault as the Renault power unit had slipped further behind the Ferrari and Mercedes in the development race. With two podiums, and no wins, Ricciardo finished 8th in the championship that season. He performed well at circuits which the chassis was more critical than the power unit – but overall the season was a struggle for the Red Bull team. He actually ended up behind his new team mate, Daniil Kvyat – albeit by 3 points – but did out qualify the Russian 14-5 over the course of the season.
The 2016 Red Bull car was much more competitive but also, arguably, planted the seed for Ricciardo’s eventual exit from the Red Bull team. The year started with the Australian partnered with Daniil Kvyat, as he was for 2015 – but by the fifth race of the 2016 season in Spain – the Russian driver had been dropped to be replaced by the young gun – Max Verstappen. The Dutch driver made an instant impression – winning at the first time of asking in his new car. The driver pairing continued to perform well through the season achieving a total of 13 podiums between them. However, by making the driver switch so early on in the year, the Red Bull team had made a statement that they were looking to the future.
Over the course of 2017 and 2018 Ricciardo faced significant reliability challenges – but when he was able to finish the races he performed well, in 2017 he achieved 9 podiums but in 2018 he achieved just two podiums – both of which were wins in China and Monaco. However – during the second half of the season – Ricciardo ended up retiring 5 times. On top of this the team were clearly prioritising the younger driver in Max Verstappen and the team were gearing up to move away from the Renault power unit to move to the risky and unproven Honda power unit.
Riccardo's Career So Far - Renault (2019-Present)
So Ricciardo made the switch to a new project in the works Renault team – this must have been with a sight on the new regulations that were, at the time, due to come in for 2021. He moved with the knowledge that he would become the number one driver, and with the knowledge that he was taking a step backwards in the hope that the project was worth it for the future.
After a challenging 2019 season, where Ricciardo finished 9th in the standings with 54 points, he was starting to doubt the project and going into 2020 with the significant driver moves triggered by Ferrari dropping Sebastian Vettel – Ricciardo has taken the opportunity to move on to McLaren for the 2021 season.
Despite his move, Ricciardo has come alive in the Renault for the 2020 season consistently outperforming his team mate in Esteban Ocon and achieving two podiums so far.
Ricciardo’s Future - World Championship Hopes
To achieve a world championship, a driver must be in the right place at the right time as multiple different factors come together. The driver needs to be comfortable with the team and have confidence in any strategy calls a team makes and then of course outperform their team mate; the car needs to be the best in the field and then you need a bit of luck – to make sure that any 50/50 situations like a tight pit stop or a safety car being released come out on top for you.
So, when will Daniel Ricciardo become a world champion? Well the first area to look at is his new team for 2021, McLaren. They are a team on the rebound after falling from fighting for the world championship in 2012 to being the second worst team in 2015. However, since then there have been significant changes to the way in which the team operates and the personnel within the team. Zac Brown coming in brought with it an era of optimism and his confidence to step away from the pit wall and replace that element of his role with Andreas Seidl a serial winner, shows how the team has grown under Brown with the team recognising their flaws and taking steps to improve them. And this has already been a success, with the last two seasons being strong for the team with a refreshed driver line up and realistic aims. They are certainly a team poised from the personnel side to perform well and this is likely to reflect back at the factory with the, now 2022, regulation changes.
On top of this, McLaren are switching back to the Mercedes engine. For me, you can interpret this in two ways – the first is that it is an absolute positive – the Mercedes engine is better in every way compared to the Renault engine they are using currently. The Mercedes team will be in 8 cars on the 2021 grid so there will be a good amount of data for them to improve even further. However, at the same time the Mercedes works team have said that they wouldn’t supply any teams that they saw as a significant threat to their dominance – hence they wouldn’t supply a team like Red Bull for example. So they clearly don’t see the McLaren outfit as a threat to their team.
Ricciardo will be looking to hit the ground running with McLaren next season using this time to get familiar with the team and build that trust between team and driver. He is likely to also build on his already favourable friendship with his new teammate Lando Norris. But will also want to have his number on track to ensure that if the chance prevails he is the one that McLaren want to favour for the championship.
But for me all of these factors need to come together for 2022 with the new regulations in some sort of perfect storm to make this happen. It is unlikely, but absolutely not impossible.
Will Ricciardo Win a World Championship?
So, will Ricciardo regret the move to McLaren? For me, not at all. The Australian clearly didn’t like what he was experiencing at Renault and there was enough doubt for him to make that move. I think he is more likely to achieve success with the McLaren team than he is with the Renault outfit. But will he become a Formula 1 world champion? Again, the answer for me is no, there are too many moving parts for him to be in that position. But I really hope that I am proven wrong on this one as I would love to see the McLaren team at the front of the pack again, winning races and titles.
Do you think Ricciardo will win a world championship or will he be left with the likes of Filipe Massa, Mark Webber and even Sir Stirling Moss without that coveted title?
Let me know in the comments!