Daniel Ricciardo has delivered some bad news for former Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen.
Lewis Hamilton is leading the drivers’ championship as he pushes for an eighth world title, but Verstappen is yapping at his heels. This was the first season in a long time Mercedes was tipped to face a genuine title challenge from Red Bull but Ricciardo says Hamilton is showing why he’s the king, winning three of four races so far.
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“We knew for a long time that this was a little bit a matter of time for Max. We all know what his talent’s like,” Ricciardo said at the launch of McLaren’s special, one-off livery for the upcoming Monaco Grand Prix.
“A lot of people are properly tipping their hat to Lewis. He’s getting it dished back at him and he’s holding his ground and showing people, maybe who doubted him, what he is and why he is as good as he is.”
Asked who he’s tipping to win the F1 war, Ricciardo said Hamilton has the edge.
“At this stage, you’d always, I guess, take experience,” he said.
“So if it was really down to the wire, then I think Lewis has showed some strong signs. But then again, if there’s a gap, Max goes for it. That’s why obviously I respect Max a lot.”
Ricciardo’s big concern over F1’s glamour event
Drivers return to the Cote d’Azur this weekend for the first time since 2019 after COVID-19 played havoc with last year’s schedule, and Ricciardo will be looking forward to running around on arguably his favourite track.
He finished second in Monaco in 2016 after a pit stop blunder cost him victory, but bounced back in 2018 to win the prestigious race for the first time in his final season with Red Bull. That was the last time Ricciardo stood on the top step of the podium and he’ll be hoping to repeat the dose this time around.
But he’s not getting too worked up ahead of the Monaco GP, fearful it won’t be the same ritzy event he’s used to because of coronavirus restrictions limiting daily crowd numbers to 7500 and keeping grandstands at 40 per cent capacity.
“I am so excited to go there, but I am a bit scared to not get too excited,” Ricciardo said. “We will have some fans, which is a start.
“The build-up, kind of walking through the crowd and fans to get into the pit lane, into your car — it’s already kind of chaotic before you get into the car, so your heart rate is already up and the circuit’s going to do the rest for you.
“So maybe there will be a little bit more calm before the storm.”
Ricciardo added the whole thing may feel a bit “empty”.
“The whole aura of the boats and everyone and people on the track at the end of the day drinking and partying — not having that to that level will probably feel a little empty but for the in-car stuff I think we’ll probably be OK,” he said.
Ricciardo is still struggling with some aspects of his new McLaren, in particular the brakes locking up. But he showed promising signs by finishing sixth at the Spanish Grand Prix, beating teammate Lando Norris for the first time this year.
However, the adjustment period has Ricciardo feeling “like a beginner” again as McLaren walks him through the steps needed to master the car.
On the weekend, a young woman from Europe detailed the night she spent with Ricciardo while holidaying in Spain two years ago, calling the Honey Badger the “sweetest man on earth”.
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