Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo says he feels ‘positive pressure’ ahead of his debut for Renault in the 2019 F1 season.
Ricciardo’s move to Renault was called out as one of the bold moves in F1 history with the Australian leaving Red Bull Racing to join the French manufacturer at a time when they are still re-building their team in the pinnacle of motorsport.
It has been hard for Renault in the hybrid era as they have lagged behind Mercedes and Ferrari in the development battle, while calls have been made that even Honda has stepped up – although it remains to be seen if they have in 2019.
And so, for Ricciardo to leave a current race-winning team to join a factory outfit which hasn’t scored a podium in the last few seasons since return, it has raised some questions. But the Australian is pumped up still with a scenery change.
For long, he has raced in Red Bull colours coming in as a junior driver but for the first time since his HRT run (still as a Red Bull junior) in F1, Ricciardo will be sporting different colours for all-together a different outfit.
With the launch done and dusted on February 12, Ricciardo spoke about being a ‘mature’ driver now who can handle the highs and lows in a season as he soaks in the ‘positive pressure’ and all the expectations ahead of Renault debut.
“Last year we had some highs and some happy moments,” said Ricciardo. “There were also some points of frustration. I was craving a change and everything I learnt in 2018 will make me a better version of myself in 2019. The difference will be a more mature person.
“I have more clarity of where I’m going and I aim for that to be shown with good results on track. I feel a lot of positive pressure and expectation to do good things, but that’s something I’m looking forward to taking on.
“It’s always exciting to get behind the wheel of a new race car and begin a new season. 2019 will feel different because I’m jumping into a totally new car and a new team. There will be a lot to learn.
“It includes understanding a new steering wheel, sitting in a new seat with new mechanics strapping me in and a new engineer talking to me, but that whole process is an exciting prospect. Obviously, I’d love for the R.S.19 to be the fastest car on the grid.
“But for now, I want to see progress on the engine from last season and ensure the team remain motivated. I’m here to do a job on track and drive as fast as possible. I would like to bring the team energy.
“I want to put a spring in everyone’s step because that’s also part of my job and also my character. I aim to be able to get the team to work that extra bit harder, put in more effort and rally everyone together. I want to be a catalyst for positive energy.”
Ricciardo joins Nico Hulkenberg, who has been with the French manufacturer since the inception of the project. The two go along together well as they both live in Monaco and as Hulkenberg revealed, they play tennis together whenever there is a chance.
For the German though, it is a big chance to showcase his talent against the might of Ricciardo. Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul already laid down a goal for Hulkenberg ahead of 2019, for him to retain his seat going forward but the German remains calm.
“I always aim to perform at my very best,” said Hulkenberg. “I want to extract the best from myself and maximise the potential from the team and the car. The important thing is, as a team, we take a good leap forward and perform better consistently.
“We want the trend to continue upwards and keep the developments coming. I’ve seen parts of the chassis at Enstone and there’s been a lot of hard work from the staff across both sides of the Channel to put together a good package.
“I know what we’re doing and what’s been changed, so I can’t wait to see it and try it out. A driver always wants more power, more grip and a better balance from the car.” The team though admitted that there is a race against time to be ready for Barcelona test.