Daniel Ricciardo has revealed that his decision to join McLaren on a three-year deal was influenced by the British outfit’s rapid progression in F1 over the last two seasons, as well as the realisation that he would be unable to win races with Renault. The 31-year-old spent two years with the French team, now known as Alpine, in which time he managed to secure a pair of third-placed finishes.
He earned a spot on the podium at last season’s Eifel Grand Prix in October before claiming another at Imola less than a month later.
Ricciardo is widely considered to be one of the most talented drivers on the grid, but struggled to live up to expectations during his time with Renault after leaving Red Bull at the end of the 2018 campaign.
Despite the team’s improved fortunes last year, he made the decision to jump ship once again in order to link up with McLaren, who have established themselves as the midfield’s strongest competitors after snatching third place in the Constructors’ Championship on the final day of last season.
The charismatic Aussie explained the decision in the new season of Netflix’s Drive to Survive, citing Renault’s inability to compete as one of the main reasons for his departure.
He also claimed that he was attracted to the McLaren project after witnessing their remarkable rise to breathe down the necks of Red Bull and Mercedes at the front of the grid.
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“Can I win with all cars finishing? It still hurts to say this… the reality is no. Deep down I knew I had to leave.” said Ricciardo.
“Last year there was always conversations going with McLaren. I think they made the biggest step out of any team in 2019.
“I did take my age into account. I’m 31. I can’t afford to chance any more seasons. I just felt McLaren was in a better place than Renault was and that’s what drove me to that decision.”
Ricciardo’s move was announced by McLaren in May of last year after it was revealed that Carlos Sainz would be leaving in order to join Ferrari.
The switch sparked tension in the Renault garage, with former team principal Cyril Abiteboul questioning Ricciardo’s decision to give up on his aim of finding success with the team.
“Every single one of us at Renault, our focus is on the stability of the team,” said Abiteboul, who was clearly disappointed with the news.
“We need to be in a position for podiums and then fight for wins and then fight for championships, but Daniel has put a stop to all of that.
“What’s hurting the most is it’s not the long-term project I thought we signed up for. Frankly, I think he’s making a mistake.
“The drivers with the biggest results, biggest success have also been the ones that have been able to take the time and bring stability in their own life, in their own career.
“Right now I have to accept our priority is to believe in the dynamic with Daniel.”
Ricciardo is a seven-time race winner, with his most recent triumph coming in spectacular fashion at the Monaco Grand Prix in 2018.
He will be hoping to return to the top step of the podium with McLaren, who will benefit from Mercedes power this year after ending their previous agreement with Renault.