Daniel Ricciardo Says That Lewis Hamilton 'Isn't The Only One That Could Win Races In That Car,' Calls F1 'Idiots'

Illustration for article titled Daniel Ricciardo Says That Lewis Hamilton 'Isn't The Only One That Could Win Races In That Car,' Calls F1 'Idiots'
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Daniel Ricciardo is a good driver and also a bit of a smiling assassin. He’s got smiles but he’s also got takes.

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Some of those takes are in the latest issue of the British lifestyle magazine Square Mile, which profiled Ricciardo for no apparent reason except that he’s a fun interview. Here he is, for example, talking about Drive To Survive season two, which played up his rivalry with teammate Carlos Sainz.

“I mean the second season, there were some episodes or parts where I feel they forced it a little bit,” Ricciardo explains. “They tried to create a bit of a rivalry between me and Sainz and it wasn’t really there. Like, he’s no more a rival than anyone else. There wasn’t any personal grudge with him, but I think [Netflix] wanted something, so a lot of questions led with asking about Carlos. Maybe no one noticed, but for me, I was like, he’s fine. I’ve probably got other guys that I dislike, you know, as opposed to Carlos… I mean, he dresses like a 60 year old, but otherwise he’s alright.”

The comment about Sainz dressing as a 60-year-old does not read (to me) as genuine heat, but this, about Formula 1's social media presence, does:

I think last year, F1 put on their social channels, like, ‘top 10 moments of the year’ or something, and eight of the ten were crashes. I was just like, you guys are fucking idiots. Maybe 12-year-old kids want to see that kind of content, and that’s cool because they don’t know any better, but we’re not kids. Just do better, guys. Do better than that.”

And so does this, about Lewis Hamilton’s driving abilities:

“To answer it diplomatically, I think Lewis isn’t the only one that could win races in that car. That’s obviously my opinion and I think that George Russell, in a way, showed the possibility of that by pretty much beating Valtteri [Bottas] in his first race. So you could argue that just maybe Lewis doesn’t have the strongest competition,” Ricciardo says.

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I recommend you read the full profile; for me, the most interesting part was Ricciardo talking about former teammate Max Verstappen, who drove with Ricciardo at Red Bull. Ricciardo takes some satisfaction in pointing out that the drivers that replaced him there — Pierre Gasly and, later, Alex Albon — didn’t fare as well.

...since I’ve left, the other drivers have come through and him having different teammates, I think it’s probably increased his respect for me even more. I mean we never hated each other, we just wanted to end each other’s careers! It’s as simple as that.”

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Ricciardo is now with McLaren after spending two years with Renault, having left Red Bull after the 2018 season. Whether he will ever win a world title probably depends on just how drastically next year’s rules change the sport.

Meanwhile, it’ll be fun to see if Ricciardo can beat his teammate, the 21-year-old Lando Norris this year, since neither have much of a shot to win it all. Norris is ahead so far, having finished fourth at Bahrain to Ricciardo’s seventh, but I’m sure Ricciardo will have plenty to say about that.

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.

DISCUSSION

Most racing drivers, especially ones who’ve had big success along the way to get to the top rung of motorsports, likely feel the same way... “If only I were in that car, I could be as good or better than the guy currently in it!”

Is he wrong? Probably not. I rate him very highly as a driver, as I do Max, Lewis and Leclerc. Perez may also be underrated. Vettel used to be on this list, but the last couple seasons he’s seemed very lost.

The above mentioned drivers, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc and yes, even Perez, have all elevated cars to higher levels than they deserved to be. When Vettel was dominant at Red Bull, Hamilton was routinely the most consistent driver to challenge for pole positions in a clearly inferior car. He obviously has fantastic single lap pace and aggression to do that, and still does. It’s just that now he’s in the dominant car, it’s EXTRA dominant. And you know what? Bottas is no slouch. We give him crap because he has not stacked up well to Hamilton. But I do remember a time where he took an underperforming Williams and willed it to a podium on a number of different occasions, much like Rosberg did early in his career at the same team a few years prior.

And speaking of Bottas, I’m going to come to his defense from Ricciardo’s words here. You must take into context why Russell was so easily able to pass Bottas for the one race they were teammates. Mercedes wholly botched Bottas’ pit stop and put him back out on the track on OLD tires. So, not only did he lose time in the pits, but he also didn’t even get the advantage of having fresh tires. His lack of pace late in the race when Russell overtook him was purely because of him being on very worn tires and Russell on fresh ones. If we’re going to criticize Bottas for that race, let’s at least be fair in the whole assessment of why things turned out the way they did that day.

Bottas has definitely had some bad luck, but he also clearly doesn’t have the pace Hamilton does most days. And Hamilton in his early years, while always fantastic for aggression and single lap speed, used to lack the ability to look after tires throughout a race. In recent years, he’s become one of the best at managing tires out there now on top of still being extraordinarily good for single lap pace during qualifying.

And for anyone who says putting, say, Hamilton and Verstappen in equal cars would show who’s superior, I would posit that it would depend on what car that is. The Mercedes and the Red Bull have very different design philosophies and very different handling characteristics. The Red Bull was obviously difficult for Gasly and Albon to adapt to. Perez mentioned how it has rather extreme front end grip/response compared to what he was used to (the more Mercedes-esque Racing Point from the previous year). But Perez has seemingly adapted quite quickly with an impressive run from pit lane to 5th in the first race after the car just shut off on him during the warm up lap.

Conversely, both Bottas and Hamilton have remarked how tricky and even temperamental the Mercedes can be to drive. If you fully understand its quirks, it’s very fast. But I would not take it as any driver being able to just jump in and dominate. Russell looked like he could, I also think he’s one of those very excellent talents that maybe should be included in my initial list above. He also had the luck of Bottas having bad luck and the Merc either way was obviously superior by a substantial margin last year.

Red Bull are much closer this year. A part of me thinks Hamilton vs. Verstappen in a Red Bull could be close, but it might take Verstappen more time adapting to the quirky Mercedes. So, if you just throw him in the Mercedes for a day, I’d put money on Hamilton. Conversely, if you throw Hamilton into a Red Bull, I’d probably favor Verstappen... at least at first. Give them the time to become fully acclimated to the new car and it’s a much closer toss-up, but still tempting to give the nod to the driver who’s been at that team longer, better understanding how the designers and engineers operate and how to interact with them and better understanding how to make tires last with that particular chassis and its specific quirks.

Not sure how good Verstappen is on saving tires, I definitely think he’s gotten better at it vs. his early years, much like Hamilton years earlier.

TL;DR, most who make it to F1 are definitely elite. And it’s far more complicated than who’s the better driver. It’s difficult to compare when the cars are built to such a different philosophy, but it’s hard to argue with Hamilton’s records. And to further my take on his ultimate single lap pace, he surpassed Senna’s pole record years ago already and has since blown it out of the water. And a not insignificant number of those pole positions came from his days at McLaren, even a number of them during Red Bull’s dominant years.

For all the records Hamilton is breaking, the pole position one is by far the most jaw-dropping. He’s now equal with Schumacher for world titles, he’s a couple wins ahead of Schumacher’s win total... But Poles?

Top 3 all time pole positions:

65 for Senna
68 for Schumacher
98 for Hamilton.

It’s not even close anymore.