Ricciardo conflicted over huge F1 gamble

DANIEL Ricciardo has shed some more light on his decision to leave Renault for McLaren at the end of the year - but admits the call was not absolutely "clear cut".

Ricciardo will replace Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz in McLaren's line-up next season after Sebastian Vettel's contract not being renewed at the Scuderia triggered a sudden merry-go-round in the 2021 driver market last month.

Ricciardo was also out of contract in December and has now committed the next phase of his career to McLaren, a team he originally turned down two years ago. But it certainly wasn't a simple decision to cut ties with Renault.

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"Obviously these things take time, so it didn't happen over the course of a week or two weeks," said Ricciardo during an appearance on The F1 Show.

"I think back when I signed with Renault in 2018, I was having conversations with McLaren at the time, so I guess I kept somewhat of a relationship with the guys there.

"So, it was quite easy to reignite the conversation earlier in the year. It was a lot of thought and it wasn't an easy process, especially not having any racing and a whole lot to dictate the decision from at least this year.

"But just having the space and being out on the farm [in Australia] I certainly had no distractions so I had a lot of time to make my mind up. But not an easy one still, obviously."

McLaren overtook Renault for fourth place in last year's Constructors' Championship and ultimately finished more than 50 points clear of Ricciardo's current team.

Ricciardo in front of future teammate Lando Norris in the McLaren.
Ricciardo in front of future teammate Lando Norris in the McLaren.

Fresh from a widespread restructure, McLaren have also signed a deal to return to world champions Mercedes' engines from 2021.

But the delayed start to the 2020 season has meant that no further concrete evidence of performance from any team has yet been gleaned.

"The reality is it's still not like a clear-cut decision, I guess," said the 30-year-old Australian.

"Yes, McLaren certainly stood out last year - no mistake. They were the team on the grid who made the biggest progress, so there's the appeal with that.

"But in saying that I didn't expect us at Renault to fight for wins or podiums last year. I know that we didn't achieve what we wanted but there was still room to grow and to do that. But I guess just seeing what McLaren had done, that was probably a little bit more to convince me.

"There are arguments for and against. Time will tell if the one I've made is the right one."

BREAK REAFFIRMED RICCIARDO'S F1 DESIRE

With interests in other fields, Ricciardo, who turns 31 next week, has hinted in the past that he might not prolong his career in F1 as long as some other drivers.

However, he admits the enforced absence from competition has underlined just how much he loves competing in the sport.

"The biggest thing I took from the time out of the seat and the time away from the racing was how much I missed it, how much I love it, and how much I want to continue to do it," said the seven-time race winner.

 

"There are times when it does get you down and you're like 'ah, do I want to do this for another five years or am I going to be done in a year or so?' But not having it definitely reminded me how much I miss it.

"So, it certainly fuelled me to want to stay and be successful in the sport for many years to come."

Seven months after the 2019 campaign concluded, Formula 1 finally gets back racing again from July 3-5 at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Eight summer races at six venues across Europe have been announced so far, with a further schedule stretching until December expected to be confirmed soon.

F1 is aiming for a season of between 15 and 18 races.

FORMULA 1 CALENDAR (so far)

July 5 - Austrian GP - Spielberg

July 12 - Steiermark GP - Spielberg

July 19 - Hungarian GP - Budapest

August 3 - British GP - Silverstone

August 10 - 70th Anniversary GP - Silverstone

August 16 - Spanish GP - Barcelona

August 30 - Belgian GP - Spa-Francorchamps

September 6 - Italian GP - Monza



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