‘I put up a fight’: Daniel Ricciardo reveals why he’s happy for Max Verstappen

Daniel Ricciardo partnered Max Verstappen at Red Bull between 2016 and 2018.

McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo believes that Max Verstappen’s championship journey started in 2018, when he matured and came back from a tough start to the year.

The Dutchman had contested just one season of single seaters in Formula 3 in 2014 before making his Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso a year later.

Then 17 going on 18, Verstappen out-performed fellow rookie Carlos Sainz, and this earned him a move to Red Bull when Daniil Kvyat was dropped just four races in.

The now 24-year-old was partnered with Ricciardo for almost three years, and the pair gave fans around the world some of the most entertaining and wholesome content.

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The Australian recalled several years ago that Sir Lewis Hamilton once asked him how he managed to maintain such a healthy relationship with his team-mate, and that partnership played a big role in helping the Austrian side recover to where they are now.

Ricciardo and Verstappen won nine races between them between 2016 and 2018, but the now 33-year-old moved on when he decided he wanted a new challenge at Renault.

His final year with the Milton Keynes-based side saw him win three of the opening six races, with his team-mate suffering adversity in five of them.

One of those races saw the pair come together in Baku, but all was forgiven, and the Hasselt-born driver would go on to take wins in Austria and Mexico, finishing ahead in the championship.

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Since then, Ricciardo’s exploits have taken him to McLaren, with whom he is set to split at the end of the season following a disappointing tenure, and he is looking for a place on the grid next year.

Verstappen won the championship last year, and is set to successfully defend it having dominated in 2022, and Ricciardo feels that his final year with the Dutchman was a turning point.

“I mean he already kind of proved his speed already from pretty much 2016, if not earlier,” he told Viaplay.

“But, at least for me, I saw [his talent in] 2016, but then 2018, I remember the first four or five races, he had crashes and quite a lot of mistakes.

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“And then he quickly, let’s say, just found a way to fix that, to mature a lot. So, I think 2018, he made probably the biggest transition from young boy into man.

“I think some off-track maturity made his on-track results a little more consistent. To see him now go and do what he’s done, I’m like, ‘if it can’t be me, then I’m glad it’s him’, because at least I feel like I put up a fight to him and it makes me look okay.”

Ricciardo has been linked with moves to Alpine and Haas, but no contract has materialised for the Aussie yet.