Daniel Ricciardo signed a three-year deal to join McLaren because he believes his new team will become a real championship contender during that timeframe.
McLaren has enjoyed a strong recovery since ending 2018 with one of the slowest cars, with the driver pairing of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz succeeding on track with Renault power, and a new senior management structure including team principal Andreas Seidl and technical director James Key arriving behind the scenes. Ricciardo was signed to replace Sainz following the Spaniard’s move to Ferrari, and said he has a lot more confidence in the team’s potential than he had when he opted to join Renault two years ago.
“I guess I can say, I’ve got nothing to hide – it’s three years,” Ricciardo said of his contract length. “It’s certainly enough time to get this thing going. I feel like I’m coming here with a bunch of momentum behind the team as well. I think, not only results, but there’s really good stability in the team, infrastructure…
“When I talked to McLaren a couple of years ago in 2018, I don’t think Andreas was there yet, James Key wasn’t, so there were still quite a few moving parts. Ultimately, the results weren’t quite there on track yet, but they were still trying to figure out their own structure and trying to establish that now.
“I’m basically just fitting into the puzzle as opposed to trying to put it all together. I’m certainly feeling good about it, hanging out to try the car, but it all feels pretty right at the moment.”
While a lot of focus is on McLaren’s switch to Mercedes power units from this year’s MCL35M onwards, Ricciardo said his confidence for the future comes from the people who are now in place ahead of new technical regulations in 2022.
“We don’t have a crystal ball, so leaving Red Bull or leaving Renault, it’s obviously what I feel is right,” he said. “Do I know 100% how it’s going to turn out? I don’t. But I certainly feel like McLaren has done the right things, particularly in the last few years, to set themselves up for in particular these rule changes coming in 2022. I think that next era of F1 has the ability to certainly turn the field around a little bit.
“Everything I’ve seen and everything I’ve known up until now certainly excites me about where McLaren is heading. So it’s really that more than anything. I really do believe in the personnel. I like Zak (Brown); I do believe Andreas is a massive asset for the team. Zak’s probably going to hit me and say I’ve got to pay him more (credit), but I think Andreas is really helping steer this ship in the right direction.
“James, as well – I got to work with James in 2013 at Toro Rosso, and that was fairly short-lived. By that summer I was already going to Red Bull. So looking forward to getting to work with him again. They’ve got more backing as well from the end of last year, some more investment. They’re expanding, I think they’re doing what it takes to be a real contender in the championship. Let’s do it.”