When McLaren announced the signing of Daniel Ricciardo, it was described as a “multi-year agreement” but there was no specifications around the length of the deal..
The Aussie superstar though has now revealed those details and it shows just how much faith he has in McLaren’s chances moving forward.
Speaking to mediaahead of the launch of the 2021 McLaren F1 car, Ricciardo said his deal would run through until the end of the 2023 season.
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Ricciardo wants a fast start at McLaren
“I guess I can say – I’ll say it anyway, I’ve got nothing to hide – it’s three years,” Ricciardo said, per Sky Sports.
“So, it’s certainly enough time to get this thing going.
“I feel I’m coming here with a bunch of momentum behind the team as well, not only results, but I think some really good stability in the team and the infrastructure.”
McLaren boss Zak Brown revealed earlier in 2020 that they had been seeking out Ricciardo since he left Red Bull in 2018.
But the man himself said at the time, he was not completely sold on the move for a few key reasons.
“When I talked to McLaren a couple of years ago back in 2018, I don’t think Andreas was there yet, James Key wasn’t, so there were still quite a few moving parts,” he added.
“Ultimately not only the results weren’t quite there on track yet, but they were trying to figure out their own structure and I think they’ve established that now.”
The 31-year old will line up alongside the much younger Briton Lando Norris (21) and while he admits he cannot predict the future, he sees enough promise to be confident at McLaren.
“We don’t have a crystal ball. Leaving Red Bull or leaving Renault, it’s obviously what I feel is right,” Ricciardo said.
“Do I know 100 per cent how it’s going to turn out? I don’t, but I certainly feel like McLaren have done the right things particularly the last few years to set themselves up for these rule changes coming in ‘22.
“Obviously, I feel I’m coming here with a bunch of momentum behind the team as well.
“Not only results, but let’s say some really good stability in the team and infrastructure.
I’m basically just fitting into the puzzle as opposed to trying to put it all together. I’m certainly feeling good about it.”
But his work car is cause for excitement too as McLaren aims to “close the gap” to Mercedes when the new Formula One season begins.
McLaren, entering their 54th season in Formula One, finished last season well behind Mercedes, the seven-time defending champions for drivers’ and constructors’ championships, but hope that their new engines, supplied by Mercedes, will help them to fight for the titles.
“We are striving to close the gap to Mercedes who we anticipate will again be fastest,” Brown said.
“Technical regulations remain stable so we expect to be the same as last year and even closer next year.”
The switch from the Renault engines, which they used for three years, to Mercedes came in a bid to add to their 20 world championships — 12 drivers’ titles and eight constructors’ championships.
“We wanted a championship winning engine,” said team principal Andreas Seidl during a virtual press conference.
“The Mercedes power unit can help us win races again but we still have work to do as a team before we fight for race wins again.”
Ricciardo is at the centre of that team.
The Australian, 31, who has joined the outfit from Renault on a two-year deal with a driver option for a third, will line up alongside 21-year-old Briton Lando Norris who scored a third-placed finish in last season’s Austrian Grand Prix and helped McLaren to finish third in the constructors’ championship.
“As I see it, most teams have a chance for a podium,” said Ricciardo at the digital launch.
“Hopefully my experience and my motivation come out on top in whatever battle I am in. I certainly have ambition to be on the podium.
“McLaren has been on an awesome journey over the last few years, and I’m looking forward to helping the team maintain this positive momentum.”
Norris finished ninth in the 2020 drivers’ championship but his preparations for the new season were hampered in January by a spell of quarantine in Dubai after testing positive for COVID-19.
“I felt drained, tired for a couple of weeks, but I am now fully recovered,” he said. “I am altogether confident I can come into the season knowing what I really want.”
He doesn’t see the addition a seven-times race winner as a threat.
“I don’t think the arrival of Daniel will make it any harder for me,” said the 21-year-old as McLaren became the first team to launch their 2021 car.
“I worked with Carlos (Sainz) who is an extremely good driver and there are things Carlos is going to be better at than Daniel and vice-versa.
“I don’t believe Daniel is a big step above anything that Carlos has achieved, and there is more pressure on him because he has been in Formula One for longer and he has to come in and perform very well.”
“It is harder for someone to go up against a much younger driver than it is for a younger driver going up against someone with more experience,” Norris added.
“I am in that earlier phase of my career but I still need to perform very well, and there are no excuses for me anymore.”
Apart from the engine and new driver line-up, McLaren also unveiled the MCL35M, the team’s 2021 race car, which is an “evolution” of the 2020 model and “benefits from aerodynamic and chassis developments” that the team implemented during the off-season.
The team said the new car would maintain the “iconic McLaren papaya orange and blue”, first carried by the team in the 1960s with team founder, Bruce McLaren, at the wheel.
Daniel Ricciardo is eyeing an even bigger bet with his new boss than the tattoo wager he had at Renault as he helped launch the new McLaren ahead of the 2021 season.
Ricciardo famously made a podium bet with his former Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul, which would see the Frenchman get a tattoo of his driver’s choosing.
Abiteboul, who has since left his role too, is yet to come through with his end of the promise but Ricciardo has his eyes on a much more expensive prize from his new boss Zak Brown.
“You will definitely know when I get it done with Cyril, unfortunately it hasn’t happened yet, but it will. We certainly left on the terms that there was some unfinished business and that business being the tattoo,” Ricciardo said. “I hope it does happen, sooner rather than later, but it will.
“Actually, we were only a couple of hours ago having some lunch with Zak and he mentioned something about him hating needles, so I can’t see the tattoo thing happening with Zak but we’ll think of something else.
“I know he has got a pretty good car collection so maybe we can just bet one of those cars or something.”
Ricciardo is now part of the fifth Formula One team of his career and his third in four years as he continues his so far elusive hunt for a world championship.
McLaren are not expected to mount a serious challenge this season despite switching to Mercedes power units, but when the new rule changes arrive in 12 months Ricciardo believes they will be in the best position to take advantage of them at the front of the field.
“We don’t have a crystal ball, leaving Red Bull and leaving Renault, it’s what I feel is right. Do I know 100 per cent how it is going to turn out? No, I don’t,” Ricciardo said.
“But I certainly feel like McLaren have done the right things, particularly the last few years to set themselves up for these rules changes coming up in 2022.
“The next era of F1 has the ability to turn the field around a little bit and everything I have seen … up until now really excites me about where McLaren is heading.
“They are doing what it takes to now be a real contender in the championship.
“I see (Ayrton) Senna’s car downstairs and it’s wild, it’s wild to see it and be a part of it.”