Daniel Ricciardo says he was surprised to find out that Nico Hulkenberg would be leaving Renault at the end of 2019.
Ricciardo joined the French manufacturer from Red Bull this season to partner Hulkenberg, but the team recently announced that Esteban Ocon will take the German’s place from 2020.
Ocon did have an agreement in principal to join Renault a year earlier at the insistence of Mercedes, but now the Frenchman will finally make the move.
However, Ricciardo revealed that he “had no indication prior to last week that he [Hulkenberg] was going to go”, and reflected on the “no-nonsense” relationship they have as team-mates.
“Yeah, I had no indication prior to last week that he was going to go,” Ricciardo is quoted by Insideracing.com.
“I’m not sure yet what his plan is. If he wants to keep racing in F1, I hope for him he finds something.
“He’s been, I want to say, easy to work with. We kind of just did our thing.
“He’s experienced, he’s been around. It’s kind of no-nonsense, ‘We’re here, we’re going to race’ and try to give the team as much info as possible.
“It’s a relaxed approach with him and up until now it’s been pretty effortless.”
Ricciardo’s arrival at Renault meant that Hulkenberg finally had a team-mate with a big reputation to compete against – Ricciardo had won seven races in his time at Red Bull and the Aussie admits that he can see why he would motivate Hulkenberg.
“In a way that was going to drive him to perform really well this year,” he confirmed.
“Now having me in the team, if he beats me, it’s, ‘Well, you know he’s a race-winning driver’. So I thought he would bring his best this year and try to remind people what he feels he is capable of.
“The first few races I saw that and there was still quite a bit for me to learn and gel with the car, so, I wasn’t surprised when he came out pretty quick in the first few and I was like, ‘Ah, got a bit of work to do’.
“Then I started to gather momentum and it’s gone back-and-forth since, but yeah, he’s quick. As far as technique goes and that, some similarities to Max [Verstappen] in some areas.”