Daniel Ricciardo’s move to McLaren for 2021 is “make or break” in terms of his career prospects, according to Jenson Button.
The Australian driver was announced before this season got under way as McLaren’s replacement for Carlos Sainz, who is joining Ferrari next year when Sebastian Vettel makes way.
Having left Red Bull to join Renault in 2019, Ricciardo is making what has been described as a ‘sideways’ move to a McLaren team who are also part of F1’s midfield battle, albeit currently 26 points ahead of the French manufacturer in the World Championship standings.
Button, who was World Champion in 2009, thinks it makes sense for 31-year-old Ricciardo to join McLaren as they are switching to Mercedes engines next year – having been shocked when he left Red Bull for Renault.
“This move to McLaren, it’s make or break for his career,” Button told the In The Fast Lane podcast.
“He’s still young, but you’ve got to start moving towards a team that can give you race wins and hopefully fight for the Championship. It’s an important move for him. A McLaren with a Mercedes [engine] in the back should be very competitive.”
Button admitted he “didn’t get” Ricciardo’s decision to quit Red Bull for Renault but suggested tension with Verstappen, which peaked at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix when the pair collided while disputing fourth place, was a factor in his decision to leave.
“I even said to Daniel ‘I don’t get your decision to move to Renault’,” said Button.
“I’m sure he’s questioned it at times, as you always do as a driver when you step backwards.
“I know he’s being paid a lot of money at Renault, but he would have also been paid a lot at Red Bull so I don’t think it’s a cash issue.
“I think it goes back to not feeling equal with your team-mate and not feeling wanted in the team, and I think that’s the reason why he made that move.
“He’s spent a couple of years at Renault…I’m probably more impressed with what he’s done at Renault than with what he did at Red Bull. To have one over on [former teammate] Nico Hulkenberg in his first year  is very impressive.”