Daniel Ricciardo has said he’s not ready to commit to a long-term future at Enstone, saying that the Renault factory team first has to prove itself capable of being ‘the rest of the rest’.
“I expect to see signs: I would like the team fighting with McLaren for fourth place in the constructors,” he told Italy’s Corriere della Sera this week.
Ricciardo is currently on a two-year contract with the team which expires at the end of 2020. He said that he’s not interested in discussing an extension at this point.
“For now the answer is no, but not out of distrust of Renault,” he said. “I want to wait for the second part of the season.
“Patience is the keyword at this stage of my career,” he explained, mindful of having just turned 30 and still keen to become world champion before time runs out on his peak performance.
Ricciardo’s surprise decision to leave Red Bull at the end of 2018 sent shock waves through the Formula 1 paddock. But it’s been a difficult start to his tenure at Renault, with the Australian finishing in the points in only three of the nine races so far.
His best result was sixth place in Canada. He would have finished in the top ten in France, but he was given two time penalties for last lap incidents which dropped him to 11th in the final classification.
Ricciardo and his team mate Nico Hulkenberg struggled last time out in Austria, with Ricciardo suggesting that there was a ‘fundamental’ issue on the R.S.19 that the team had get to get to grips with.
It’s left Renault 20 points behind McLaren in fifth place in the constructors championship, with Ricciardo tenth in the drivers standings. But he was confident that leaving Red Bull had been the right decision for him.
“Overall it’s been positive, even if it’s also been a difficult year,” he insisted. “But I accepted the challenge because I needed something fresh.
“It’s a change that allows me to improve as a driver and a person,” he continued. “I was under no illusions. You don’t just start winning overnight. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone even if that meant taking a risk.
“What was for sure is that I wouldn’t have fought for the world championship [if I had stayed at Red Bull]. At most, I would have been on the podium.”
Ricciardo continues to be linked with a possible move to Ferrari, despite denials from Maranello.
There had been suggestions that his former Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel had blocked Ricciardo joining the Scuderia last year, but the Aussie was sceptical about such reports.
“I don’t have an answer to this question,” he said. “But if I put it to myself, I say that it is not possible
“I refuse to think that a team of this kind should be influenced by a driver,” he added.
But Vettel might not remain a factor in Ferrari’s decision making, with gossip that the former world champion is unhappy at Maranello where he’s under mounting pressure from Charles Leclerc, and that he might be contemplating retiring from the sport.
Ricciardo said that he has some sympathy for Vettel. His own decision to leave Red Bull last year had been in part due to frustration at all the attention going to his young team mate Max Verstappen.
“Maybe he’s experiencing something like what I felt a year ago,” Ricciardo mused. “Frustrated and vulnerable.
“In some situations he had a loss of motivation, seeing that he can’t impose himself,” he added. “But he’s still a fast driver and can always win a title. The only doubt is whether he can still keep up his top form across a season.”
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