Daniel Ricciardo credited for Renault’s ‘remarkable’ transformation

Daniel Ricciardo’s time with Renault is over but the Aussie F1 star has delivered in spades during his time with the team.

A horror first year was followed by a massive leap forward for Renault, and despite finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship in 2020 yet again, the team has progressed.

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After a season where Ricciardo’s 119-point tally personally outpointed Renault’s entire 2019 haul of 91 points, the 31-year-old is heading to McLaren, who wrapped up third place in the constructors’ standings.

Ricciardo did most of the heavy lifting for Renault in 2020, nearly doubling teammate Esteban Ocon’s points, but signed with McLaren for 2021 after the F1 season was delayed due to COVID-19.

Two podiums, 14 top-10 finishes and 11 consecutive point scoring races to finish the season had Ricciardo thrilled after the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

He also added another fastest lap of the season by pipping former Red Bull comrade Max Verstappen at the death, after Renault hadn’t won a fastest lap since Montreal in 2010.

“I was pretty stoked with the year in general, (it) was really nice, it was really strong,” Ricciardo said on Sky Sports.

“The race with hard (tyres) worked, went really long and that really set it up. That was an exceptionally strong stint I felt and then we put the medium (tyres) on and we were kind of in no man’s land, I felt McLaren were definitely too far in front. At the very end, we pushed for fastest lap so nice little send off.”

It’s a huge turnaround for Ricciardo.

Halfway though his Renault experience, it appeared as though the move from Red Bull to the midfield was a miscalculation from the Aussie star as he struggled in 2019.

Ricciardo scored just 54 points and sat in ninth after a nightmarish first season with the French outfit.

The Aussie played off the performances as building towards the 2020 season and targeting podiums ending a nine-year wait for the team dating back to the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix.

Ricciardo has arguably only enhanced his reputation on the grid, tallying 119 points and finishing fifth overall, only knocked out of fourth by Sergio Perez’s win in the Sakhir Grand Prix last week.

Daniel Ricciardo did a lot of the heavy lifting for Renault in 2020.Source:Getty Images

Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul was singing the Aussie’s praises with his two-year stint making a real impact on the program.

“He’s given a lot,” Abiteboul said in Abu Dhabi. “What he’s given first and foremost as a driver, he’s been remarkable, in particular this year.

“I think there is no doubt about the progression of the team this year. It’s very much a credit to Daniel who’s been clearly leading the charge of the team and behind him a group of people and a group of mechanics and engineers who are doing a remarkable job on track.

“Off-track, obviously we know Daniel is a great ambassador, is a team leader. He has clearly been instrumental to the changes that we’ve done last year when we had altogether a disappointing season.

“So, I’ll say that frankly when he joined we knew that it would take a bit of time, that he was not coming into a turnkey organisation. I think I remember those exact words said to Daniel back in the first meeting back in 2018.

“It was not a turnkey organisation but he made an impact and we are so different today to what we were two years and a half ago when we decided to form this partnership.

“So, in that respect, frankly, it has delivered. It has delivered positively and the irony in all of this is that I believe we are a much stronger team now and he will have to race a much stronger team next year.

“We will be missing (Ricciardo) but … we’re also glad to see him in a great team and we look forward to an exciting battle against McLaren and Daniel next year.”

We’ve missed Daniel Ricciardo’s smile in 2020.Source:FOX SPORTS

Before the race in Abu Dhabi began, Ricciardo and his team had a nice moment over the team radio, speaking to the affection with which the Aussie is held.

“Whatever happens today, thank you for everything,” his engineer said. “We’ve got one more dance, final dance.”

“Yep, thank you boys, 55 laps, everything we got,” Ricciardo responded.

And he did, going from 11th to seventh and picking up the fastest lap point from race winner Verstappen.

Joining McLaren next season, Ricciardo will again work with a young driver in Lando Norris and have another chance to show his leadership abilities as a veteran on the grid.

Ricciardo said he was happy with the finish in Abu Dhabi, adding: “The bonus is that I walk into a team that now got third so it’s a big day for them.”

“It’s a team that showed so much promise last year and they backed it up and some this year,” Ricciardo added on Sky Sports. “Getting fourth last year was a statement and then they got up to third this year so I think it’s a team with a lot of momentum.

“I’m not going to start any time soon, I just want a few weeks off and switch Formula One off for a little bit but I’m hanging out to get started mid-January some time.”

McLaren boss Zak Brown is looking forward to working with his new recruit.

“I think we have the most exciting driver line up in Formula One next year,” Brown said. “Both on track and off track. Lando’s really come into his own this year. Last year was a great rookie year and he's been more aggressive this year.

“And then Daniel’s a seven-time winner so I think there’ll be a good relationship there on and off the track.”

Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris are going to make one hell of a double act.Source:FOX SPORTS

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