While reasons for Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to move from Red Bull to Renault are well documented, it was always going to be a big risk departing a team with a recent winning pedigree for one hunting former glory.
Right now it is looking pretty bleak for the man from Down Under, the risk he took has got off to a bad start and risks failing altogether unless his new team can get their act together immediately.
Retired F1 driver and fellow Australian Mark Webber is concerned that below par results with Renault will render Ricciardo the forgotten man of a sport where the line between hero and zero is very fine. A hot property can turn cold very quickly.
The first four races this season suggest the French outfit and their drivers will struggle this season unless a minor miracle takes place at Vichy. Team bosses were bullish that this year they would be podium contenders and naively predicted that in 2020 is the time to start winning.
Surely with the promise of the above is how Renault would’ve lured the highly rated Ricciardo to the team, clearly not expecting the quagmire of unacceptably bad performances that they have delivered, with the recent Azerbaijan Grand Prix of particular embarrassment.
Right now, Ricciardo and teammate Nico Hulkenberg, for that matter, are on the wrong end of the grid with another below-par package produced by the French manufacturer whose engines have powered drivers to F1 victories on 168 occasions.
But after the dust settled on the weekend in Baku, it has emerged that Renault are only better than Haas and Williams in the pecking order ahead of Barcelona in ten days time. Breaking into the top three was their ambitious preseason target.
Webber told Wide World of Sports, “Daniel hasn’t forgotten how to drive, but the form guide changes very quickly in this sport. A driver’s momentum and his career can be challenged.”
“He’s valued, but clearly he’s not in a good position at the moment. That’s obvious. You need results, you need to be drinking the champagne on the podium. That’s what concerned me with this move, so let’s hope the team can lift for him and start getting results.”
“Every few months, if the performances aren’t there, other managers and agents and young drivers are trying to muscle in, the sport moves on so fast. Daniel benefited from it in the past, he was one of the guys that had it on the way up. Now Renault have to deliver for him.”
The reality of their plight is that in qualifying – the single occasion where all teams max out their cars – Renault were way off the pace. Ricciardo managed to scrape out of Q1 with the 15th best time, albeit 1.1 seconds shy of the top time which, ironically, was set by Pierre Gasly, the man who replaced him at Red Bull!
In Q2, Ricciardo’s best lap time of 1:42.477 was not good enough for Q1 and two seconds down on the pole-winning time set by Valtteri Bottas on his final Q3 run in the Mercedes.
Webber continued, “Daniel’s season hasn’t really started, has it? It’s been very challenging for Renault, and it’s starting to sink in now, in terms of the amount of work in front of them.”
“As predicted, they’re a long way off, they’ve got a big job to do. They’re a team under tremendous pressure already, because their performance doesn’t back up the chat. Renault were saying in the off-season they can challenge the top three, but they’re a long way from that.”
“It’s been challenging, they’ve got some reliability issues as well, McLaren are beating them with the same engine, which is not good. McLaren are a long way down the road at the moment.”
Facts are facts, although the season is still new it does not take Nostradamus to predict that Ricciardo’s decision to ditch Red Bull is not on the right track. As mentioned, it was always going to be a risk.
Webber went on to explain how the opposite worked for him, “Thankfully I did it the other way around! I was in average teams for a long time and I never ever wanted to feel that again, even though I had offers to continue in F1 when I left Red Bull.”
“I didn’t want to know what that felt like again. I had that through the early part of my career through sub-par machinery,” added Webber who quit the pinnacle of the sport at the end of 2013.
Big Question: Has Daniel made a mistake going to Renault?