Daniel Ricciardo predicts bright McLaren future in Formula 1 as he begins new career chapter

Daniel Ricciardo has spoken of his excitement about what he feels McLaren can achieve in future seasons.

The 31-year-old former Renault and Red Bull driver was presented in the team’s colours for the first time at their 2021 launch on Monday evening alongside team-mate Lando Norris, with the MCL35M car they will be driving in the new season also revealed.

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The Australian is driving the car for the first time on Tuesday at Silverstone.

Ricciardo, who revealed he had jointed on a three-year deal, said that while there were no guarantees about how his time at the famous Woking team would play out, he believes McLaren are on the right path – particularly heading towards F1’s new rules era from 2022 when the pack is expected to close up.

“We don’t have a crystal ball. Leaving Red Bull or leaving Renault, it’s obviously what I feel is right,” Ricciardo said in a media call.

“Do I know 100 per cent how it’s going to turn out? I don’t, but I certainly feel like McLaren have done the right things particularly the last few years to set themselves up for these rule changes coming in ’22.

“That kind of next era of F1 has the ability to turn the field around a little bit and everything I’ve seen and known up until now really excites me about where McLaren is heading.”

Speaking warmly of the team’s key management – chief executive Zak Brown, team principal Andreas Seidl and technical director James Key, who he briefly worked with in 2013 at Toro Rosso – Ricciardo explained why he felt the team were now a different proposition than when he first spoke to them about a potential move before he left Red Bull.

“It’s three years [on the contract] so it’s certainly enough time to get this thing going. Obviously, I feel I’m coming here with a bunch of momentum behind the team as well,” said the Australian.

“Not only results, but let’s say some really good stability in the team and infrastructure. When I talked to McLaren a couple of years ago back in 2018, I don’t think Andreas was there yet, James Key wasn’t, so there were still quite a few moving parts.

“Ultimately not only the results weren’t quite there on track yet, but they were trying to figure out their own structure and I think they’ve established that now. I’m basically just fitting into the puzzle as opposed to trying to put it all together. I’m certainly feeling good about it.”

Ricciardo, who claimed two rostrum finishes with Renault in 2020, added: “I certainly have the ambition to be on the podium for my first time with McLaren. As the team achieved this last year, I think in my head we can achieve it again this year. It won’t come like that but if we continue and I put the work in, there will be a good opportunity.”

McLaren’s new signing on…

Driving with a Mercedes engine for the first time…
“It’s something I’m looking forward to. I drove with a Renault in the back in this hybrid era so I’m looking forward to experiencing something new again. Until I get on track it’s hard to really know, but they’ve had a lot of success so I’m expecting something capable.”

Being team-mate to Lando Norris…
“We both have a similar approach to the game. We both love what we do, we enjoy our job and we’re not afraid to show that. So we have the same approach but from a bit of a different generation. I’m 10 years on Lando, so it creates quite a good combination. Off track for sure we’ll always be seen to be having a good time, but I believe the competition on track will be good, it will be fierce and, more importantly, driving the team forward.”

The chasing pack behind Mercedes and Red Bull…
“There was really a rivalry with most of the field. More teams than not finished on the podium last year so the battle to fight for the front was getting more intense. You’ve got Mercedes who have still got the target on their back but we’re trying to close in on that.”

New F1 boss Stefano Domenicali’s call for drivers to be role models…
“Particularly with being in my 30s now you think more about the younger generation and how you are perceived. You take a bit more of a conscious effort to be a good role model and stand by your values. Speaking of Stefano, I’m really excited to see him come in and fill that role. I think he’ll be really good for Formula 1.”

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