James Key: I rate Daniel Ricciardo extremely highly

McLaren technical director James Key believes that Daniel Ricciardo will bring a “great deal of experience and determination” to the team.

Ricciardo arrived at the Woking-based squad over the off-season as the replacement for the Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz.

During his time at Red Bull the Australian became an established winner, while he secured two podiums and finished fifth in the drivers’ standings with Renault last season.

Sainz himself had an excellent 2020, helping McLaren finish third in the constructors’ championship and Key admitted he would be missed.

“It will leave a gap,” he told the F1 Nation podcast.

“But his replacement will fill [the gap] very well. It’s great to have Dan on board, and having worked with him in the past, I know he’ll bring new and different opinions and ways of working to the team, which will be welcome. So there’s a gap to fill, but we’ve got a great guy to fill it.”

The seven-time race winner made his Formula 1 debut in 2011 with HRT and Key believes that Ricciardo can bring a lot to McLaren.

“He’ll bring great experience,” he added. “He’ll bring a lighter, sort of jovial touch as well in some cases. He’s a great character out of the car as well as in, but he’ll bring a great deal of experience and a huge amount of determination.

“I think what always impressed me with Daniel is this massive amount of determination he has, particularly when he’s driving; you can really feel and see that. You listen to his radio messages when he’s driving, and he’s a very different character to when he’s out of the car and relaxed.

“He’s incredibly determined when he’s racing, and I think that, with his experience and his confidence and what he can do, now that he’s a genuine well-established race winner – I think all of that will bring good confidence to the team, and a slightly different kind of aspect to how we see certain things with the car technically as well. He’ll bring good knowledge in for that.

“We would obviously like to become a top team ourselves, and I think with his help, we can make more steps in that direction. I think he can compete at [the top echelons of the sport], and we’ve seen him do it in past years. I think he’s one of those drivers who could step into any one of the top teams and do well. I rate him extremely highly.”