Daniel Ricciardo says his 2020 campaign with Renault is the most “satisfying” season of his career in Formula 1 since 2016.
Ricciardo walked away from Red Bull at the end of the 2018 season to make a surprise switch to Renault, but after a difficult 2019 the Renault project is now starting to come together with Ricciardo scoring two podium finishes in his last three races.
So after that difficult spell over the past few seasons it must be a relief for Ricciardo now that his career looks to be back on track.
“I think the last year at Red Bull was probably emotionally the most tough I think because at the start of the year it looked like I was maybe competing for a Championship and then mid-year realised I wanted to move on,” he told Sky F1.
“Then towards the end of the year it was just DNF after DNF, there were a lot of emotions that year, so I think that was still to this day probably the most tough year for me emotionally and how it played with me a little bit.
“Last year it was still fun, even though we didn’t really get the results we were after initially, I think it was still fun to try and build with a new team and I think this year it has definitely been more fun because that building is delivering some really good results.”
So, is this Ricciardo’s most enjoyable year in Formula 1 to date?
“I’d probably have to look back on it when it’s all said and done but I think so far, yes,” he confirmed.
“My enjoyment is really high at the moment, I’m loving racing, and I think that was also heightened from the lockdown and missing the competition for a longer off-season.
“Having it taken away I think made my desire to come back a lot stronger.
“2016 was a good year with Red Bull, so this is probably the most satisfying since then.”
Ricciardo has identified Racing Point as the biggest threat out of the two, but feels a lack of consistency is hurting them.
“I look back at Imola in the race, the pace of [Sergio] Perez was particularly high in the middle of the race,” he said.
“At that time we couldn’t match it, and I feel like most of the year, maybe some circuits they surprise us where they haven’t been as strong as expected, sometimes not getting into Q3, but once everything settles and they’re able to get on top of their car I feel like they have a little more overall downforce than us and McLaren.
“So I feel like when they’re on, they are on and we need to be perfect if we want to beat them or out-do them with strategy or something.
“I just feel like the overall potential if you were to paint the perfect picture with every car I feel like they still have more potential than us, but if we keep harassing them, putting pressure on them of course it has kept us in the fight until now.
“And we are still bringing updates and getting better so it’s a small gap, but if I were to put all the numbers together I’d say they are able to produce a little bit more downforce.”
— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) November 12, 2020
For 2021 Ricciardo will switch to the other name in this trio, that being McLaren, but until then Ricciardo is completely focused on Renault, something he knows his future employer respect.
“I looked at the team, and I looked at myself, and I really made a promise to them that I’ll do all I can before the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi [F1 2020’s last race] and there’s no fun and games,” he said.
“I think honestly, McLaren watching, and anyone who really cares and who is a real racer over there at McLaren, will appreciate and respect that. I’ll show the right intensity and loyalty and everything I can with Renault until the end, and in my mind that has to be respected and understood.
“Next year, when the page turns, I’m all in with McLaren – but until then I’m going to keep going at Renault.”