We are less than one week away from the start of the F1 2021 season and fans will be treated to a fast-paced show of new drivers, team changes and a new opening race as Bahrain International Circuit hosts the first of 23 rounds.
There has been no shortage of offseason driver moves, most notably Australian Daniel Ricciardo’s move to McLaren.
The now 31-year-old made his debut at the 2011 British Grand Prix with the HRT team in a deal with Red Bull.
At the time Ricciardo was racing for their sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso and in 2012 joined Toro Rosso as a full-time driver.
After outscoring his teammate at the time Jean-Eric Vergne by seven points and out-qualifying him for three-quarters of the season Ricciardo eventually got the opportunity to drive for Red Bull in 2014 as Mark Weber’s replacement.
Ricciardo’s first season was an impressive one. He claimed three victories in Hungary, Belgium and Canada, which helped lead Red Bull to a second-place finish in the constructors’ championship.
However, Ricciardo’s following seasons with Red Bull did not follow suit as he went without a victory for two years.
Eventually, in 2016 he returned to the top of the podium with a victory at the Mexican Grand-Prix and finished third in the 2016 driver standings. 2017 and 2018 were moderately successful.
Ricciardo finished fifth and sixth in the driver’s standings but ultimately he decided Red Bull was not going in the direction he wanted.
In 2019 Ricciardo signed for Renault. Red Bull’s power unit supplier. His two-year contract would be valued at roughly forty-million Australian dollars which made him one of the highest-paid drivers at the time.
Ricciardo often cited Renault’s growth and progress over the years and wanted to win an F1 championship.
However many fans at the time thought this not to be true as Renault was nowhere close to a podium, let alone knocking off Mercedes to win an F1 championship.
Ricciardo encountered his fair share of criticism for the move with some fans believe that the reason for Ricciardo leaving Red Bull was his tumultuous relationship with star driver Max Verstappen.
Team principal Christian Horner even accused Ricciardo of “running away from the fight”.
Ricciardo’s debut 2019 season with Renault did not start well. He had retirements in the opening two races and a 7th placed finish in China.
His 2019 was spent with an unreliable and unpredictable car making it extremely difficult to transition to a new team, which made it even harder to deal with expectations placed on his shoulders.
Midway through the 2020 season, it was announced the Ricciardo would join McLaren for the 2021 campaign.
Fans and Renault staff members could not accuse him of throwing in the towel as Ricciardo went on an 11 race point streak that included six finishes inside the top five.
Hoping to put a difficult 2020 season behind him due to covid-19, the new F1 season couldn’t have come quickly enough with the Australian as fired up as ever to prove the doubters wrong.
His McLaren career has gotten off to an impressive start. In pre-season testing, he topped the first session on day 1 with the fastest time of 1:32.215 and on day three he completed 173 laps.
Ricciardo is not getting carried away but the signs are there that McLaren has the durability and pace to compete for podium finishes and finish top of the midfield.