Daniel Ricciardo believes part of Lewis Hamilton’s championship success can be attributed to the Briton keeping “a cooler head” than Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel led the drivers’ championship until the end of the European season, when Hamilton embarked on a run of four wins in five races to take control of the title battle. With the Ferrari driver making deliberate contact with Hamilton behind the Safety Car in Baku and then retiring from the lead due to a strong defensive attempt at the start of the Singapore Grand Prix, Ricciardo believes Hamilton dealt with the pressure better this year.
“Lewis’s season, I respect that,” Ricciardo said when visiting Baku City Circuit on Thursday. “For sure he had a great car, but I think Seb’s car was also as good. Lewis just maintained a cooler head, a better level of consistency and composure, and you have to respect that. He was always very fast, and I think he drove a very good season.”
While disappointed not to be in that battle himself, Ricciardo admits that he still has areas he needs to improve upon once Red Bull delivers a more competitive car for a full season.
“Unfortunately Mercedes has been really strong for the last four years,” he said. “They have been the team to beat. We thought this year would be a chance for us to really challenge them. We challenged them some races, but not enough to fight for the title. In the end, actually, myself and Max were fifth and sixth in the championship, so [we’ve] not come near to what we wanted.
“What we need to do for next year to have a chance is that we need to start the season stronger. That’s where we lost a lot of our momentum this year, was the beginning of the season, we were too far behind Mercedes and Ferrari.
“We made a lot of progress, which was really good, so we need to continue that momentum. From my point of view, I need to improve a few areas qualifying was not up to my standard level.”