If nothing else, Aussie F1 star Daniel Ricciardo is a man of his word.
The Renault driver is set to switch to McLaren at the end of the season, following two years in yellow and black.
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After a horror year in 2019, 2020 has been much better for the Aussie with a more reliable car that currently has him sitting in sixth in the driver standings, just two points behind future McLaren teammate Lando Norris in fourth.
But in Sunday‘s Russian Grand Prix, eventually won by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, Ricciardo finished fifth, although he was almost ruined by a sloppy overtake on his teammate Esteban Ocon.
After pitting early, Ricciardo was working his way back through the field when he found himself stuck behind Ocon who was struggling to overtake Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel before the team ordered the drivers to swap position.
Coming up to the second corner, which had been a difficult turn for drivers all weekend, the Aussie star locked up and ran wide, copping a standard five-second penalty.
But while Lewis Hamilton raged over a pair of five-second penalties of his own, after doing a practice stop at the end of the pit lane rather than in the designated area, Ricciardo took the penalty in his stride.
“I’ll just drive faster,” he said over the team radio when told of the penalty. “That’s my bad, I’ll make up for it.”
Ricciardo was sitting in fifth ahead of Ferrari‘s Charles Leclerc in sixth and Ocon in seventh but the gap at the time of the penalty would’ve lifted Leclerc ahead of him in the final order.
But in a story on Formula1.com, it shows the Aussie backed up his words to drive faster with a graph showing he was about two seconds a lap faster after the penalty.
He also reportedly spent five per cent more of each lap at full throttle, and was driving an average of 4km/h per lap faster in the 10 laps after being told of the penalty.
“I had moments of certain imperfection,” he said after the race, “but then I really think I had moments of, let’s say, great recovery.
“So all in all, I’d score the race pretty good. Not perfect, but the important thing was I kept my head on in terms of the penalty. My engineer told me and I said, ‘Alright, I’ll drive faster.’ It’s that easy I guess …”
The fifth place result continues a brilliant season for Ricciardo, with a former French Renault driver Jolyon Plamer wrote in a BBC column that it has been difficult on his teammate Ocon with the Aussie being one of the standouts of the grid so far this season.
“He is driving the wheels off his Renault and has been unlucky not to be on the podium already this season with fourth places at Silverstone, Spa and Mugello,” he said in his BBC column.
“Ricciardo is making it a very tough return season for Esteban Ocon, a young French star who has seemed destined for greatness.”
But Ricciardo’s honesty could also be the reason that McLaren were so eager for his signature.
Speaking on F1.com’s Beyond the Grid podcast, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said he would have stood in the way of Carlos Sainz’ departure to Ferrari if it wasn’t was Ricciardo’s interest.
Earlier in the year, Sainz signed with Ferrari with Ricciardo to McLaren in 2021.
“We could have kept him – we had an agreement where we could have stopped that, we had an option,” said Brown. “We tried to get Daniel Ricciardo the first time around, a couple of years ago so he was always highest on our list, and when Andreas (Seidl, McLaren Team Principal) joined, we kept in touch with Daniel.
“So conversations were started with Daniel. We got the sense he wasn‘t happy where he was at (Renault), so it was more that the stars aligned in that we wanted to explore Daniel, Carlos wanted to explore Ferrari. We could have said no but we had an interest in Daniel and we kind of thought, ’If we can end up with Daniel and Carlos ends up with Ferrari, that’s a good ending for both of us.’
“We would have never let Carlos go if we didn‘t feel we could have got Daniel, but when we thought that that window was open, we kind of said, ’Yeah, let’s go explore,’ set a date where we would come back to each other, and it turned out we could get Daniel and Ferrari did want [Carlos], so we said, ’Great, let’s do it.’”