McLaren technical director James Key says the “determined” Daniel Ricciardo can fill the “gap” Carlos Sainz has left.
After two solid seasons with McLaren which saw Sainz finish P6 in the 2019 and 2020 Drivers’ Championships, as well as claim two podium finishes, the Spaniard moved on to Ferrari to replace Sebastian Vettel for 2021.
Sainz has left somewhat of a void at McLaren, but the team feel they have filled it perfectly with the addition of seven-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo.
The Aussie’s “determination” is already impressing Key, and he believes Ricciardo is definitely the right driver to take McLaren forward.
Key and Ricciardo have worked together previously at Toro Rosso.
“It will leave a gap,” said Key when discussing Sainz’s exit on the F1 Nation podcast.
“But his replacement will fill [the gap] very well. It’s great to have Dan on board, and having worked with him… in the past, I know he’ll bring new and different opinions and ways of working to the team, which will be welcome. So there’s a gap to fill, but we’ve got a great guy to fill it.
“He’ll bring great experience. He’ll bring a lighter, sort of jovial touch as well in some cases. He’s a great character out of the car as well as in, but he’ll bring a great deal of experience and a huge amount of determination.
“I think what always impressed me with Daniel is this massive amount of determination he has, particularly when he’s driving; you can really feel and see that. You listen to his radio messages when he’s driving, and he’s a very different character to when he’s out of the car and relaxed.
“He’s incredibly determined when he’s racing, and I think that, with his experience and his confidence and what he can do, now that he’s a genuine well-established race winner – I think all of that will bring good confidence to the team, and a slightly different kind of aspect to how we see certain things with the car technically as well. He’ll bring good knowledge in for that.”
Wow. Wow. Pretty damn cool thank you 🥰🥰🥰 https://t.co/e5y2ZWw3hu
— Daniel Ricciardo (@danielricciardo) January 22, 2021
Key believes that in Ricciard,o McLaren have a driver who could step into one of the cars at the top of Formula 1 and perform, so the goal is for Ricciardo to make it there in a McLaren.
“We would obviously like to become a top team ourselves, and I think with his help, we can make more steps in that direction,” said Key.
“I think he can compete at [the top echelons of the sport], and we’ve seen him do it in past years. I think he’s one of those drivers who could step into any one of the top teams and do well… I rate him extremely highly.”