Daniel Ricciardo’s made not one, but two failed bets in Formula 1 yet.
In between the pre-season tests and the first race of the season in Australia, it’s season 2 of Drive to Survive that’s keeping Formula 1 fans hooked to the sport. The documentary on Netflix offers a unique behind-the-scenes access to life inside the famed Formula 1 paddock. The popularity of season 1 coupled with data that new viewers were taking interest in Formula 1 has led to more seasons being produced. Like I’ve said before, it’s the central kitty that’s funding the show – so one can’t be sure of how many seasons there may actually be!
In the second season, Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to leave Red Bull Racing and the tough start to his journey with Renault have been well captured. But the one big stand-out was Ricciardo’s admitting to talks with Mclaren and deciding to not join them. Understandably, Mclaren’s struggles with Honda and Renault power would’ve made any driver make a similar choice. In hindsight, one assumes that Ricciardo would’ve done different? But decisions are seldom made with hindsight!
Basically, Ricciardo made two wrong bets for the 2019 Formula 1 season. First, his decision to leave Red Bull Racing thanks to the uncertainty around Honda’s ability to deliver a competitive power unit. Second, his decision to not join Mclaren, although this time it was around the team’s continued troubles on the chassis side. In fact, in the fourth episode of the show, Ricciardo touches upon the chance of missing out on a drive with Mclaren in a conversation with his trainer.
Ricciardo’s loss was Carlos Sainz Jr.’s gain – in every way. One assumes that after being dropped by Renault, a seat at Mclaren was Sainz’s only option to continue racing in Formula 1. At the time of his announcement, you wouldn’t be alone in wondering if a move to Mclaren would lead Sainz to the end of the road in his Formula 1 career earlier than expected. But we all know how 2019 turned out for Mclaren and Sainz. As for Ricciardo the troubles may only get deeper as Renault loses Mclaren as customer to Mercedes. The financial loss aside, it’s the loss of a competitive reference that will impact Renault’s already-troubled comeback in the sport.
Choosing the right team has long been one of the biggest challenges for every driver in Formula 1. Fernando Alonso is the most-discussed example in this regard. One wonders how many titles would Sebastian Vettel have to his name had he not raced for Red Bull Racing or likewise for Lewis Hamilton, would have his six titles if he raced for a team other than Mercedes? Yes, the thought is speculative. But one hopes that in the time to come, Formula 1 can reduce the impact of getting such a bet wrong. Because even if the team can recover from a few bad seasons, it’s the driver(s) who end up paying a heavier price.
For 2021, do you think Daniel Ricciardo will be forced to stay put at Renault or do you believe he will find a seat elsewhere?