Daniel Ricciardo has reflected on his time with former Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, saying the young gun’s carefree attitude was one of the factors that made him such an imposing force when he first arrived in F1.
Verstappen became Ricciardo’s Red Bull stablemate midway through the 2016 season when the then-teenager was promoted from Toro Rosso and he wasted no time making his presence felt.
The Dutchman was not afraid to unleash aggressive overtaking moves and reputations meant nothing to him. As his career has progressed that hothead streak has remained even as other drivers, such as six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, have scolded Verstappen for taking too many risks.
As Ricciardo explained to sports broadcaster Mark Howard on the latest episode of his podcast The Howie Games, Verstappen simply didn’t care.
He didn’t care what others thought about him, he didn’t care about the nuances of protecting machinery Red Bull had spent millions of dollars on and he didn’t care that F1 drivers, as the faces of teams that boast hundreds of employees, have much more responsibility on their shoulders than simply what happens during the two hours of a grand prix.
“I think a lot of it was his age at the time, that had its downsides with a little bit of immaturity but it had its upsides,” Ricciardo said.
“He really just didn’t care about anything, about annoying people or about the risks.
“It was like, ‘I’m just going to go out there and drive this thing as hard as I can’.
“He probably didn’t understand the responsibility … so he raced with a lot of free will and that worked out pretty well for him a handful of times.
“When he joined the team, really from day one he just got out of the pits and really ragged the car and wasn’t really caring about protecting the equipment or anything.
“It was just 100 or nothing and that was cool because a lot of the time I would build up to it and sometimes I was a bit too nice as well on the car.
“We certainly pushed each other a bit harder.”
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Verstappen was never going to let anyone push him around.Source:AFP
Ricciardo finished ahead of Verstappen in the drivers’ championship in 2016 and 2017, but his colleague beat him by two places in 2018 when he ended up fourth while the Aussie was sixth.
Ricciardo quit Red Bull at the end of that year and endured a disappointing debut campaign with Renault in 2019, coming ninth in the drivers’ standings while Verstappen had a brilliant season, finishing third behind the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
There were rumblings part of Ricciardo’s decision to leave the energy drink team was because he felt Verstappen was being given preferential treatment by Red Bull.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner has made no secret of the fact he wants to make Verstappen the youngest F1 world champion ever and in season 1 of Netflix docu-series Drive to Survive, he accused Ricciardo of running from a fight with his younger comrade.
“It was a shame because there was a great dynamic between the drivers. I was not aware of any frustration or favouritism he (Ricciardo) felt existed within the team,” Horner told F1 broadcaster Natalie Pinkham on her podcast In The Pink last month.
“It’s something we talked about a lot over the years.
“He was a competitive driver but he obviously felt that he needed a change, he needed a stimulus and the Max factor for sure was an element in his decision-making.
“He’s a great driver and I hope he still goes on to achieve some success.”
Verstappen enjoyed his best season yet in 2019, winning three races and standing on the podium eight times. Horner believes Ricciardo’s departure was the catalyst for the 22-year-old to step up because he’s now the senior driver beside relative newcomer Alex Albon, who was promoted from Toro Rosso to Red Bull last year.
“After Daniel left, Max suddenly recognised the responsibility he had on his shoulders as the senior driver and he definitely stepped it up a gear and became more of his own person,” Horner said.
“He shouldered that responsibility incredibly well and the way he’s driven the team forward, the direction he gives from the cockpit in terms of development and feedback, has been outstanding.”
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