Ricciardo: No ‘poor me’ feelings after seeing Verstappen win championship with Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo does not have any regrets over his Red Bull exit following a disappointing season with McLaren in 2021.

McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo maintains that he does not regret his move away from Red Bull after watching their championship success last year with Max Verstappen.

Ricciardo joined the Formula 1 paddock in 2011 as a Red Bull junior driver on loan to HRT, and he made his debut at the British Grand Prix that year.

He would then earn a move to Toro Rosso and, after two impressive seasons partnering Jean Eric Vergne, he found himself alongside Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull in 2014.

He took three race wins, and stunningly out-performed the four-time world champion en route to a third-placed Drivers’ Championship finish.

For all intents and purposes, it looked as though a world championship would surely beckon for the Australian.

Sadly though, this never materialised, and his place as the star of the Milton Keynes side was jeopardised by the arrival of then-18-year-old Verstappen, who claimed victory on his Red Bull debut in 2016 having replaced Daniil Kvyat.

Verstappen out-qualified Ricciardo 34 times in 58 races at Red Bull, cementing his authority at the team.

At the end of 2018, the 32-year-old decided it was time to move on, and he joined Renault for the 2019 season.

The Enstone squad had finished an impressive fourth in the Constructors’ Championship in 2018, providing Ricciardo with enough evidence to suggest that this was the team to help him progress towards the front of the grid, but they slumped back to fifth that year – 54 points behind McLaren.

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He then joined the aforementioned Woking team ahead of last year and, despite a remarkable victory at the Italian Grand Prix – the team’s first since 2012 – he ended the Drivers’ Championship eighth, and was persistently out-performed by Lando Norris in a stuttering and difficult first season in papaya.

His position now is a far cry from his race-winning Red Bull days, but Ricciardo has no contrition over his career choices.

“Honestly, no,” he told the media at McLaren’s 2022 car launch at the McLaren Technology Centre when asked if he wishes he had stayed.

“I don’t want to say it like, ‘No, I don’t’, like snappy and disrespectful to Red Bull, because they gave me a lot in my career. They really made a lot of this possible for me.”

Having been part of the Red Bull programme from the age of 18, the Australian reveals that he simply needed to do something new with his career.

“I was there for five years, but I felt like I did reach a little bit of a point where I really felt like I personally needed something fresh,” he added.

“If I was still there maybe I wouldn’t have even been close to fighting for a title, you just don’t know.”

The eight-time race winner has previously described his tough 2021 campaign as the one that gave him the most personal growth, and he is not convinced that he would have improved as a racing driver as much as he has done had he remained at Red Bull beyond 2018.

“Of course, 2021 they won the driver’s title but, if I would have gone another year – 2019, 2020 and then ’21 – I’m not sure if I would have been a better version of myself,” he explained.

“I needed a bit of a change, and for sure there’s been some struggles through that change. But honestly, I don’t regret those changes I’ve been through, or the move I made at the time.”

Further, Ricciardo emphasised his happiness for friend and former team-mate Verstappen after his championship victory last year.

“That’s all a part of the sport, and obviously learning more about yourself and growing up, but I’ve had no ‘what could have been?’ [thoughts] when I saw Max win the title last year.

“None of those ‘poor me’ feelings. If anything I was happy for them to get back to the top. If it can’t be me then I’m happy for it to be them!”

The 2022 season begins on 20 March in Bahrain, following two pre-season tests in Barcelona and Sakhir.