Max Verstappen reckons Daniel Ricciardo’s debut campaign with Renault would not have been “the easiest” for the Aussie given the complete lack of podiums.
Ricciardo swapped to Renault after the 2018 season, deciding to call it quits on his time at Red Bull and his partnership with Verstappen.
The Aussie swapped a race winning team for one that last won in 2013 under the Lotus name, while the most recent Renault win was back in 2008.
He had, however, hoped to at least be in the hunt for podiums.
Instead it proved to be a season in which Renault would take one step forward and then two back.
Ricciardo scored in eight of the season’s 21 grands prix with a best result of P4 at the Italian GP. In that race, though, he was 10s off the podium and 45s adrift of the race winner.
Asked whether F1 was poorer for not having Ricciardo in the hunt, Verstappen told The Age: “It doesn’t really matter if the sport would be in a better place, but Daniel would be in a better place if he was fighting at the front.
“Daniel is smiling a lot and he’s a very happy guy, but I think he would be smiling even more if he was winning races and being on the podium.
“I know Daniel and I know Daniel is very fast, so I can imagine last year was not the easiest for him.
“It’s very hard to compare against someone like Lewis [Hamilton], because there is no real comparison.
“But Daniel was faster than Seb [Sebastian Vettel] in the year they raced together [at Red Bull in 2014], and I’ve raced alongside him long enough to know that he’s a very fast guy.”
The Dutchman reckons having Ricciardo as his team-mate in 2016 when he first stepped up to Red Bull helped his development.
The two had a fierce rivalry almost from the get-go with Verstappen saying that made him push even harder.
“When I first joined Red Bull I was very inexperienced and throughout the years I became stronger and more connected in the team, but he was a nice team-mate because we were pushing each other very hard,” he said.
“That was very good for the team because we were trying to fight each other to find that final tenth [of a second], and the whole team lifted because of that.
“He was nice to work with, and I loved that time.”