Ricciardo ‘deal breaker’ in Ferrari snub
AUSSIE Formula One superstar Daniel Ricciardo's move to McLaren has been widely praised as the seven-time grand prix winner has taken a gamble to move on from Renault.
Ricciardo is no stranger to leaps of faith, having parted ways with Red Bull for then "best of the rest" team Renault for the 2019 season.
But after a blockbuster week of moves sparked by four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel leaving Ferrari, plenty of questions still remain.
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Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz appeared to be the only two in contention for Vettel's seat, with the Spaniard winning the race as Ferrari chases its first driver's champion since Kimi Raikkonen's championship in 2007.
The moves had been discussed for weeks, if not months, in the lead up to the decision so it wasn't a surprise but Ricciardo and McLaren have been seen by many as the winners of the week.
At 30, Ricciardo is seemingly closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
In breaking down the news, F1.com's Lawrence Barretto highlighted part of his interview from testing in Barcelona, where Ricciardo spoke about his future in the sport.
While not putting a time limit on it, Ricciardo said he wants to compete as long as he's competitive.
"My longevity in the sport will be dictated on how competitive I am, in terms of, for example, if Lewis (Hamilton) wasn't in a winning car the last few years, if he was in P8 and P9, would he still be in the sport? It's questionable," he said.
"If you're winning, it's hard to walk away. (Nico) Rosberg did, but for most of us, it would be hard to walk away while winning. I can say today I want to be done by 35, but if I'm winning at 35 and if I've still got a chance to win, it would be hard not to keep going.
"It definitely depends on that, how competitive your situation is. But yeah, I'll definitely be here for a few more years."
With Ricciardo seemingly heading towards the back end of his career, it was a big decision for the Aussie.
There have been suggestions that Ricciardo and Ferrari mutually agreed not to partner up, with ESPN and The Age both reporting it was the case.
ESPN's F1 associate editor Nate Saunders wrote that while Ricciardo "ticked all the boxes", he likely wanted to avoid another situation he had with Max Verstappen at Red Bull in 2018, when the young Dutchman appeared to overtake the Aussie in the team's pecking order.
"In truth, Ferrari seemed less likely on this occasion than it might have in 2016, or even a spell in early 2018. There was always a fear his role at Ferrari would likely be more akin to the one fellow Australian Mark Webber had at Red Bull alongside Vettel at the start of the 2010s," Saunders wrote.
"Like Hamilton, Ricciardo does not demand preferential treatment when signing his contracts, but not having equality is a deal breaker. At McLaren, not only will he get that, but he can be the one that team builds around."
On Sky Sports, F1 expert Karun Chandhok said Ferrari likely believed Ricciardo's age would make him "desperate to challenge Charles" Leclerc with many characterising Carlos Sainz's appointment as the Prancing Horse nabbing a good number two to the 22-year-old Monegasque.
"For McLaren to sign Daniel as a replacement for Carlos is an obvious thing to do," he wrote. "The Aussie is a proven race winner and drove very well at Renault last year despite the results not giving him any trophies. The races in Canada, Silverstone, Japan and Austin, in particular, were all truly top-class performances.
"Clearly Zak Brown and Andreas Seidl were able to convince Daniel they were the team outside the top three most likely to challenge Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. With Mercedes engines coming in 2021 and the new wind tunnel in 2022, ensuring they have an experienced and fast driver will be essential, and they have done very well to get Daniel into the team."
The suggestion Sainz would be a number two has been heavily discussed, with long-time Ferrari test driver Marc Gene denying the claim to Spanish newspaper Lavanguarda.
"I guarantee there won't be a number one and number two," he said.
"It's clear in the contract. Charles knows the team from what he has achieved, but it doesn't make sense that one is above the other. The deal will be the same, you both work for the team, from there it will be performance based. Everyone will have their own ideas to work on."
McLaren boss Zak Brown has also said all the right things, admitting the team had been talking with Ricciardo for some time, admitting the seat was a two-horse race.
"Obviously Seb's (Vettel) an awesome driver and a four-time champion," he said. "But I think we were pretty far down the path in the off-season and knew we would either land with Daniel or Carlos.
"We never really entertained anyone beyond that, and especially with Seb's late breaking news - we were pretty far down the path at that point."
With a blockbuster week of moves starting with Vettel's bombshell, Mark Webber suggesting the German's original move may have been more to do with Ferrari being on the way back to the pack as the 25-year-old Sainz joins the 22-year-0ld Leclerc.
Deals getting done when everyone’s bored. 😜 Don’t underestimate who Sebastian gets plenty of counsel from, Bernie. Could it be that the red car wasn't particularly competitive preseason, stable regs and a future budget cap?— Mark Webber (@AussieGrit) May 14, 2020
Webber's theory is supported by the reports Ricciardo "passed up the chance" to join Ferrari - despite a large number of contradicting reports claiming the team always preferenced Sainz as its preferred candidate to replace Vettel.