McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo has spoken about his envy of the title battle between Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in 2021, saying he wishes he was part of it.
Verstappen took the title from the Briton in controversial circumstances, passing him on the very last lap of the season finale following a highly controversial Safety Car restart procedure by race director Michael Masi.
Ricciardo finished eighth in the Drivers’ Championship in 2021 and, although he did win the Italian Grand Prix in September, that would turn out to be his only podium in what was a poor season for the Australian.
He was out-qualified and out-raced by team-mate Lando Norris, who would go on to finish sixth in the Drivers’ Standings.
McLaren missed out on third in the Constructors’ Championship to Ferrari after a closely fought, season-long battle.
Ricciardo scored points on 13 occasions, while he watched former Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen claim 10 victories and not finish outside of the top two positions more than more four times.
Ricciardo finished third in the standings in 2016, but still found himself a long way off the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Reflecting on his maiden season with McLaren, Ricciardo admitted he was envious of Hamilton and Verstappen for being in a position to fight for the championship.
“Of course, I’m envious. But I’ve been envious for eight, nine years. It’s nothing new, but of course, it’s exciting, the thought of it,” Ricciardo said.
However, the Australian holds no sour grapes, and he thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle that Hamilton and Verstappen put on last year.
“For me like everyone, I’m a fan, I’m a driver, but I’m still a fan of the sport. It’s been great and take the envy aside, it’s awesome for F1 to have the battle.”
The leading two in the title races frequently found themselves battling wheel-to-wheel on track, often coming to blows.
Ricciardo is enthused by the amount of head-to-head action he saw between the title protagonists.
“I can’t recall a year where two guys found themselves side by side on so many races. I feel like 75 per cent of races they’d gone wheel to wheel at some point, so it’s pretty awesome.”
The McLaren driver, who signed from Renault ahead of the 2021 season, is also pleased to see how hard Verstappen pushed his rival.
“Of course, I wish I was part of it, but again, just for the sport and it’s been a while Lewis has been taken to this water, if you will, taken out to this, what do you say, deep waters.”
Continuing, Ricciardo said he was excited by the youthful Verstappen going up against the experienced Hamilton.
“It’s nice and you’ve also got… I know Max is not the young buck anymore, but he’s still that young generation, and obviously, Lewis is now one of the oldest guys on the grid, but it’s cool to see both ends of the spectrum go at it.
“From a fan point of view, it was awesome,” the Australian concluded.