In an interview with Sky Sports F1 today, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has admitted that they “didn’t realise how quick” Daniel Ricciardo would be when they signed him up to replace Mark Webber for this season.
Ricciardo fought off competition from Kimi Raikkonen and Jean-Eric Vergne to secure the vacant seat at the World Champions and he has made an immediate impact out-qualifying and out-racing Sebastian Vettel 5-1.
In his interview with Sky Sports F1, Horner has nothing but high praise at the job that Ricciardo is currently doing with the Red Bull team. He stated the following:-
‘Daniel has been a real surprise this year. We knew he was quick – we just didn’t realise how quick. And he is so cool as well, he is quick, he’s good looking, he has got everything going for him.’
I would have to agree with what Horner has stated about Ricciardo. So far this season, I have been really impressed with the performances that Ricciardo has achieved already with the Red Bull team. He has managed to settle into the team really well, has managed to extract pace and performance from the car and is being rewarded for his efforts.
Many pundits and fans before the start of the season (myself included) wondered if Ricciardo would be able to handle the pressure of being promoted from the Toro Rosso team to the Red Bull team despite showing promises of his talent during his two years here. But he has already proved his doubters wrong and continues to do so by showing that he can when he is provided with the opportunity, he can deliver.
Further on in his interview with Sky Sports F1, Horner believes that Ricciardo’s performance at the Monaco Grand Prix is a turning point for the Red Bull team. He stated the following:-
‘For the first time this year we were actually racing them and I think if we had qualified better we could have given them a harder time. But it is definitely a positive step for the team this weekend, we have taken the fight to them a little bit more and there is more to come.’
Even though I can understand why Horner thinks that their pace at Monaco was a step forward for the team, I do still feel that even though it is a step forward for them, they still have a lot of work to do in order to close the gap and advantage that Mercedes have over them currently. There is no question that Red Bull has the personnel and the resources at their disposal to close the gap to the Mercedes team, but I fear it could be too late for them to mount a challenge for the title.
Whilst Horner feels that the Ricciardo’s pace was better, he is realistic enough to know that finding a way past on the tight confines of the Monaco circuit was unlikely admitting that only when Hamilton’s eye issue became apparent did he think they had a chance. He added the following in his interview on the matter:-
‘When he said he got a bit of rubbish in his eye and started to slow down, but with a driver of Lewis’ quality you know he is not going to give up a second place easily. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, overtaking is another thing.’
As Horner rightly points out, despite the issue that Hamilton faced with his eye in the race on Sunday, this would not stop him from racing and performing in the best way that he could. Even though Ricciardo was catching Hamilton at a fast and consistent pace, I feel that passing Hamilton would have not been possible for him due to the characteristics of the Monaco circuit.
In regards to what Horner has stated about Ricciardo today, I feel that Ricciardo has managed to surprise many pundits and fans with the performances he has managed to achieve at the Red Bull team so far this season. There is no question that Ricciardo is a talent of the future, he is improving race by race and is gaining more confidence in himself.
He has shown that he can perform well and also consistently, if he is given the tools and equipment to do the job. Already, he has proven that he is more of a match to his team mate Sebastian Vettel who at this present time is struggling to get to grips with the RB10 and extracting pace from the car.
I would not be surprised if this season sees if Ricciardo is provided with the opportunity to achieve his first win in the sport. It would be thoroughly deserved and would do no further harm in establishing himself as a serious contender in the future to be fighting for more race wins and maybe even a championship further down the line in his career.
Can Ricciardo get quicker throughout the season ahead? I feel that Ricciardo will only get quicker and he has a lot more to give in his first season with Red Bull. We can only watch this space.