F1: Daniel Ricciardo to Renault- A Masterclass or a Disaster
There is a very fine line between bravery and irrationality. The poster of boy of Formula One and the ever-smiling Daniel Ricciardo has once again made news and this time he’s created a storm to say the least. 2019 onwards, one would see Ricciardo racing for Renault having left Red Bull Racing.
There’s no doubt that Ricciardo has the potential to be a World Champion, but was this move warranted, especially with Ferrari and Mercedes showing no interest to sign him. Time would be the only answer to this question.
Come 2019, Red Bull will be powered by a Honda engine. I’m sure this must have been a huge factor in Ricciardo’s decision making. With Honda having a forgettable return with Mclaren and not the best of seasons with Torro Rosso, you’d have to wonder what prompted Red Bull to switch to Honda. There is no doubt that Renault was lagging behind both Ferrari and Mercedes in terms of engine power and also having a lot of reliability issues, but a Renault backed Red Bull could hold off a Ferrari or Mercedes and give the team a chance at pole and a race win. One has to wonder whether a Honda-powered Red Bull can deliver the same results. Surely, it will need wings! Ricciardo though has only signed a two-year contract. This keeps his options open for 2021 when Hamilton and Vettel will both be out of contracts.
2021 is also the year where F1 will see a lot of changes, especially in engine regulations. Renault like Ferrari and Mercedes are a works team which manufactures their own engine or power unit. In a sport where you need to have the best car to win, budgets matter. Renault in this aspect would be able to invest heavily similar to a Ferrari or Mercedes. This would place them in a better situation as compared to the likes of a Red Bull powered by a Honda engine. Synergies if any might take time to unveil itself.
I’m sure Ricciardo while contemplating this move, considered the situation of Alonso and Hamilton. Hamilton in 2013 moved from McLaren to Mercedes and everyone at that time questioned his decision. Today though he is a 4-time champion and has got one of the best cars to drive. On the other hand, though, we have Alonso, arguably the best driver in the grid, but in one of the slowest cars. Alonso moved from Ferrari to McLaren in the hopes that he would win a championship. Unfortunately, McLaren have been plagued by engine issues to such an extent that for a double world champion like Alonso, finishing in the points is akin to winning a race. Ricciardo would obviously want a situation like Hamilton’s.
What we have seen in the last ten years in Formula 1 is that, a fast car and not just a good driver alone is needed to win the championship. The likes of Red Bull and Mercedes dominating season after season is a testament to this. The last decade had some great drivers like Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and many more, but none of them were able to win the championship even once. Renault with all due respect doesn’t have a car which is capable of finishing on the podium if both Ferrari and Mercedes are on top of their races. The best among the rest tag currently lies with Renault who are a massive 141 points away from the third-place Red Bull who are a further 112 points adrift of Ferrari. This shows the huge gap in the development of cars.
Considering all these factors, it’s a huge risk for Ricciardo to move away from Red Bull. Had Red Bull stayed with Renault and experimented with Honda in their sister concern, Toro Rosso for another year to test the progress of the Japanese team, maybe the Aussie would have resigned with Red Bull.
2019 now would be an extremely unpredictable year for both Ricciardo and Red Bull, the former who would be trying to get a grip of the new car and environment and the latter who would be having a new engine supplier in Honda. One thing is clear is that Ricciardo is surely looking for a Ferrari or Mercedes seat in 2021, or he is hoping to make Renault a champion team again when they were under Flavio Briatore and had Fernando Alonso. I really hope we do get a lot of ‘shoeys’ in 2019!