Ross Brawn is convinced Daniel Ricciardo would be a World Championship challenger in a Mercedes.
The Australian has been one of the outstanding drivers of the 2020 F1 season and his two third-place finishes for Renault – their first podiums since 2011 – have lifted the team up to third position in the constructors’ World Championship.
On an individual level, Ricciardo is a clear fourth in the drivers’ standings, 10 points ahead of Charles Leclerc, although understandably he is a long way behind the leading trio of Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen who have dominated the campaign.
But in a suitable car, the 31-year-old would be a genuine contender to become his country’s first World Champion since Alan Jones in 1980, according to F1 motorsport managing director Brawn.
He was speaking after Ricciardo had made it two podiums in the last three races by finishing third behind Hamilton and Bottas in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, in what is his second and last season with Renault before joining McLaren.
— Renault F1 Team (🥉 2 x 2020 f****** podiums) (@RenaultF1Team) November 2, 2020
“Daniel Ricciardo is a brilliant driver and one of the very best in Formula 1,” said Brawn in his regular column on the Formula 1 website. “His drive to another podium was very impressive.
“If he had a Mercedes, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind he would be taking race wins and pole positions and challenging for the World Championship.
“He’s doing a fantastic job right now and Renault will be sad to lose him, even if Fernando Alonso is the man who will be stepping in.
“I hope McLaren can give Daniel a car he deserves next season. He’s a great member of the F1 fraternity.”
Ricciardo was slightly fortuitous in terms of his Imola podium because it was ‘gifted’ to him in a way when Racing Point gave up track position during the late Safety Car period to bring in Sergio Perez for a fresh set of soft tyres, and he could not regain the lost places.
Brawn believes Racing Point made the wrong decision and said: “Checo is a driver who can manage tyres exceptionally well, so if anyone could get the tyres to the end while defending position it’s him, and remember Imola is very a difficult track to overtake on.
“I certainly think the team will be looking very hard at that decision, and the reasoning behind it, and they will inevitably learn from it.
“The calls you make in the race aren’t always right. They could have been heroes. But it was a tough ask to expect Checo to make up four places. The tyres were much more consistent than anticipated, but that was apparent part-way through the race.”