Daniel Ricciardo headed into the summer break with a challenging start to the year behind him.
Many are questioning his move to Renault - as the French manufacturer’s Formula 1 team has struggled to make a mark on the 2019 season, sitting sixth in the constructors championship on just 39 points...
...less than half of their customer team, McLaren, which sits fourth on 82 points, after another tough race in Hungary which saw both Ricciardo and teammate, Nico Hülkenberg, finish outside the points once more...
...in 14th and 12th, respectively. While over at McLaren, both their drivers finished in the top-10 once again.
There’s no doubt that the addition of the 7-time Grand Prix winner to their driver line up, alongside Hulkenberg, added to the pre-season excitement.
SOUNDBITE (English) CYRIL ABITEBOUL,
MANAGING DIRECTOR, RENAULT SPORT RACING:
“We are extremely excited with our driver line up, probably one of the best line-ups in the grid, right now, maybe one of the most exciting from a marketing perspective, so we very much look forward to see them racing, we think they will be extremely complementary. We really want to see that happening.”
The season opener in Australia, which was also Ricciardo’s home race, upped the pressure, and passion, for a positive result.
SOUNDBITE (English) DANIEL RICCIARDO,
F1 DRIVER, RENAULT:
“I am really excited for that, for the change, to really kind of push the team, they have been on a really good trajectory the last few years, and to help it, move forward. I feel revitalised.”
Unfortunately, for the Australian, and for the team, things got off to a bumpy start. An attempted overtake of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez saw the local hero squeezed onto the grass, his front wing destroyed by a concrete kerb, and damage to the car caused his first retirement of the season.
This bad fortune continued in Bahrain, where a double DNF for the team saw each car retire, four laps from the end of the race, at the same corner...
...with Hulkenberg losing power from sixth position, and Riccardo suffering an MGU-K problem from ninth.
The first points of the season for the new Renault driver came at the 1000th Grand Prix, held in China, where a seventh place put six points on the board and increased confidence on his side of the garage.
A third DNF of the season, second by driver error, occurred in Azerbaijan, where Ricciardo accidentally reversed into Toro Rosso’s Danill Kvyat, after they both ended up in the run off area.
Top ten finishes with a ninth in Monaco, a season best result in Canada with 6th, and seventh in Great Britain, have been the only real notable highlights.
In comparison to team mate, Nico Hulkenberg, Riccardo leads in a head to head comparison, outqualifying the German, eight to four, and leading him in the championship by five points, regardless of one additional DNF.
It may be too early to judge if the Australian’s move was the right or wrong decision, but there is one thing we should always remember, especially when times are tough.
Fortune favours the brave!