McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo believes that new F1 world champion Max Verstappen is the second-best driver in Formula 1, but the Aussie continues to back himself as the quickest in the sport.
Verstappen dramatically defeated Mercedes’ Sir Lewis Hamilton to his maiden title in 2021, sparking suggestions that he has now overtaken the Briton as the very best the pinnacle of motorsport has to offer.
Ricciardo finished the 2021 season eighth in the Drivers’ Championship, and was out-qualified 15-7 by young team-mate Lando Norris, who ended sixth, in what was a tough season for the Australian.
However, he is still full of belief that he can claim a world title in his career, as is his performance coach Michael Italiano.
The two have known each other from a young age, and Ricciardo approached his friend in 2017 about helping him to refine his training. Italiano maintains that Championship success is still very much the aim.
“A world title one day is 100 per cent the goal – it’s always been the goal from day one,” he explained.
Italiano knows that the 32-year-old is fully capable of translating his ability into the ultimate prize in Formula 1; and all he needs is the right equipment.
“I have full belief that he’s good enough for a world championship, and he’s got full belief that he’s the best. If the car is good enough, he’ll make it happen,” Italiano said.
Ricciardo is also adamant that there is no one better than him in the sport, and that the day he ceases to believe in his ability to win the world title will be the day he decides to leave F1.
“Until the day I stop… I’ll always believe I’m the best. I think the day I stop will be the day that I no longer believe I’m the best driver,” Ricciardo said.
Ricciardo partnered Verstappen for the better part of three years during their time at Red Bull, and was out-qualified 43 times in 58 races by the Dutchman, although he did outscore him in both 2016 and 2017.
Ricciardo maintains that he is better than anyone on his day, but sees Verstappen as the next best thing – even ahead of seven-time champion Hamilton – saying: “Is Max the second best? Probably! Probably!”
Ricciardo claimed his first victory since 2018 at the Italian Grand Prix last year, in a race that also saw McLaren take their first win in nearly nine years, and their first 1-2 for in over a decade.
Ricciardo will again contest the 2022 season with the Woking-based outfit, and his existing contract runs out at the end of 2023.