Ricciardo’s plan to silence critics
Daniel Ricciardo has vowed to prove the doubters wrong.
Having heard the chat all season questioning his shock defection from Red Bull to the rebuilding Renault, Ricciardo said he was intent on making a statement to reinforce why the move was the right one.
"You've always got a point to prove one way or another, but certainly a lot of people questioned the move to Renault and questioned the motives," Ricciardo said.
"For me, I feel like I have to, not only do it for myself, but for Renault to repay them and to anyone that doubted it and show them that I am very serious about it and it can work.
"I want to prove a lot of people wrong."
So far this season, Ricciardo's bid to make a statement with his new team hasn't quite come to fruition.
Having finished as the "best of the rest" last season behind the three leading teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, Renault has been unable to give its prized signing the welcoming party on-track it would have liked in 2019.
Ricciardo has failed to finish in three of the opening nine races and his highest finish has been his sixth place at the Canadian Grand Prix.
A seven-time Grand Prix winner with Red Bull, Ricciardo said he always knew there would be "struggles" in his first season with the French manufacturer and had not set any lofty expectations.
"To be honest, I was not expecting much from this year and that's not to be pessimistic but I knew there would be challenges and I wasn't expecting any real big results," Ricciardo said.
"I knew there was going to be ups and downs and I knew the car would naturally be tricky to drive because Red Bull always produced a fairly good chassis from when I first started.
"I was expecting struggles and if that didn't happen that was a bonus.
"I didn't want to be too optimistic or confident because I knew that wasn't quite realistic to start the year.
"Canada was, for now, a bit of a one-off, but it certainly was a weekend which showed it can happen and we're not messing around so we've just got to produce that more often."
His results might not have reflected it so far, but Ricciardo insists he is in a happier place this year and doesn't regret the decision to make the switch from Red Bull.
The Australian allowed his frustrations to boil over at times in his final season with Red Bull last year, describing himself as "tired" at the end of his five-year tenure with the team.
His trademark smile has been tested amid Renault's form struggles in the first half of the season, but Ricciardo maintains the fresh start was what he needed.
"I certainly am (happier)," Ricciardo said.
"(At the) end of last year with Red Bull I certainly showed frustration, but that was also coming to the end of a five-year relationship where this is still so fresh, I'm not letting frustration creep in. I don't think that will help me.
"I certainly had happy moments last year, there were some big moments, but I certainly felt as the year was going on, I was becoming a little bit more tired, putting it that way.
"It (the move to Renault) was the challenge and the fresh start I felt I needed."
Ricciardo celebrated his 30th birthday at the start of the month and the milestone left him feeling a little nostalgic.
It also gave the Perth-born racer the chance to reflect on his career to date, what he has achieved and how much more he has to give in Formula One.
"I got a little bit nostalgic with being 30, but … I wasn't sad about moving on, I'm still excited about a lot of things happening," Ricciardo said.
"I think for me the biggest thing is probably five years ago I would have looked at 30 and said … 'That's probably tailing off in my F1 career', but I certainly don't feel that and I'm glad I don't because there is a lot more I have still got to give and do in the sport."
The 2018 Monaco winner admitted he had hoped to be a world champion by this stage of his career.
"Part of me is fulfilled with having some wins and what not, but I would have loved a title by this stage because I believe I could have one," Ricciardo said.
"But in saying that I'm not down because I feel like I'm on my way out. I think if anything it kind of just encourages me to keep the fire burning.
"If it all ended today, part of my heart would be not so fulfilled, so I kind of want to leave at some point with it completely happy and satisfied."
It wasn't just his recent milestone birthday that had Ricciardo in a reflective mood.
The team's performance at the last round in Austria also gave him reason to do some serious thinking.
Ricciardo and his teammate Nico Hulkenberg finished 12th and 13th, behind both Renault-powered McLarens of Lando Norris (sixth) and Carlos Sainz (eighth).
The Australian hoped the team's less Austria let-down could be a turning point for the rest of the season.
"Austria wasn't really fun for any of us but I think we learnt a lot from that," Ricciardo said.
"Even though it wasn't fun being outside the top 10 all weekend, I feel like that struggle reiterated my motivation behind this. I was driving thinking 'This is not where I want to be'. That in itself is kind of driving me to want to be better with this team."
Ricciardo is confident the team can find the improvements it needs to push up the grid in the second half of the season.
"I don't think we'll have that struggle again, or I hope not to," he said.
"We will just try to focus on the strengths and get that right … I think when we do that we will be a Q3 car and getting points all the time."
TO THE MAX
While Ricciardo sits 10th in the Formula One driver standings - with both Renault-powered McLarens ahead of him - his former Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen is third behind the dominant Mercedes pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
Verstappen claimed victory in the last round at the Austrian Grand Prix for the second consecutive season and is on track for his best career finish in the championship after finishing fourth last year.
But Ricciardo said he did not begrudge Verstappen's position.
"Not at all," Ricciardo said when asked if it was hard seeing the Dutchman third in the title race.
"Honestly, for the sport, I was happy that Austria turned out the way that it did. I don't look at that in any way that that could have been me.
"I have definitely moved on from that. But the sport needed that race, so I am happy Austria was the way it was."
Ricciardo insisted his motivation to race in Formula One remained as strong as ever and he had no plans to walk away from the sport before he had given everything he had in his pursuit of a world championship.
"Running around in 12th … place in Austria that made me angry and that kind of anger I had was because I still want it as bad as I ever had," Ricciardo said.
"In a way I left that weekend happy that I felt that way, so yeah that hunger is definitely still there.
"At this stage I would honestly say that I would stay here as long as I need to, I'm not going to put a time on it. I definitely want to get that world title, so for now (I'll) basically do whatever I can and hopefully I don't have to stay here until I've got grey hair. But I'm willing to if that's the case."