Verstappen: Daniel would be smiling even more if he was winning races

Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo deserves better than languishing in the midfield, says his former Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen.

Verstappen, who won three races in 2019 — his first since Ricciardo left for Renault — was asked by The Age if the sport would be better with the Australian still in contention for victories.

“It doesn’t really matter if the sport would be in a better place, but Daniel would be in a better place if he was fighting at the front,” he said.

“Daniel is smiling a lot and he’s a very happy guy, but I think he would be smiling even more if he was winning races and being on the podium. I know Daniel and I know Daniel is very fast, so I can imagine last year was not the easiest for him.”

In his first year with the French constructor, Ricciardo finished ninth in the driver’s championship with 54 points, his best finish a fourth at Monza. It was his first year without a podium since his final season at Toro Rosso in 2013.

Now on the eve of the 2020 season, Ricciardo will have to content himself with another rebuilding year, while Verstappen has championship aspirations. Nevertheless, the Dutchman feels for his former teammate, who he believes is among the best drivers the sport has to offer.

“It’s very hard to compare against someone like Lewis [Hamilton], because there is no real comparison. But Daniel was faster than Seb [Sebastian Vettel] in the year they raced together [at Red Bull in 2014], and I’ve raced alongside him long enough to know that he’s a very fast guy.”

“When I first joined Red Bull I was very inexperienced and throughout the years I became stronger and more connected in the team, but he was a nice teammate because we were pushing each other very hard,” he said.

“That was very good for the team because we were trying to fight each other to find that final tenth [of a second], and the whole team lifted because of that.

“He was nice to work with, and I loved that time.”