Ricciardo ‘can’t say no to Ferrari’
Daniel Ricciardo has long been seen as the key bargaining chip in F1 ahead of the 2021 season and the Aussie superstar has further fuelled speculation.
After saying "I'm answering all calls" when asked about whether he would pick up the phone for Ferrari, Ricciardo has been unable to shift the narrative that he's looking to leave for the right offer.
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Despite admitting his focus is on Renault, the long-believed link between the Aussie and the Prancing Horse is stronger than ever with Ricciardo set for the second year of his two-year deal with Renault.
Ricciardo has a huge bag of skills that make him an attractive prospect for Ferrari as he is still known as one of Formula One's premier overtakers.
As F1 gets into the second week of testing for the year, Ricciardo was asked about the rumours he would be replacing Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari, while sitting next to Renault executive director Marcin Budkowski.
Ricciardo initially deflected with a joke. "Sebastian is a nice guy," he said. "And he was born two days after me but two years earlier. Das ist super, ja?"
But then he got more serious, as he answered the question he will likely get until he signs a contract.
"I will answer calls for sure, but most importantly I want this to work," Ricciardo said.
"I don't want it to feel like I've just come to Renault and just got away from Red Bull, and then I'm looking for the next best thing. I really want to make this happen and make it work.
"Obviously the step to that is getting more out of this year than we did last year and hopefully getting enough out of it, that the journey continues beyond my two-year contract. That's the ideal scenario.
"To talk about other what-ifs and future here and there, it's still too early. You don't want to rock the boat obviously as well, but we haven't even started this year. I can't think about it yet."
Despite the answer, iNEWS journalist James Gray tweeted that he wasn't convinced Ricciardo would stick with Renault if offered a shot Mercedes or Ferrari and an elusive world championship.
Daniel Ricciardo tried to joke his way out of a question about replacing Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari. Eventually he gave his answer. He tried to be honest and diplomatic - but the reality is that at this stage, he cannot say no to Ferrari.https://t.co/xXT3DknC96— James Gray (@jamestingray) February 26, 2020
Gray wrote that Ricciardo will take his time to make the decision as he "will not want to be remembered as the funny man who could pull off some outrageous overtakes, but in the end only won seven Grands Prix and never finished better than third in the title race".
The decision is massive for Ricciardo, with Gray finishing "the right risk could write him into the history books. The wrong one could end his career in relative obscurity."
The 2019 season was a huge step back for Ricciardo as he completed his first season with no podiums since 2013.
Speaking to the Herald Sun last week, Ricciardo said he wanted to make a statement in 2020.
"For the most part, last year was a good year," he said. "Not everyone thinks that, so you've got to change opinions.
"Everything we learned from last year we put towards this year's car and that felt like an update.
"So initial impressions were positive, but we will really know once we push it on track in Melbourne in equal conditions."
F1 2020 TEST TWO, DAY ONE WRAP
Alfa Romeo's Robert Kubica finished as the unexpected pacesetter on the opening day of F1's final pre-season test - but Max Verstappen was second with Red Bull's fastest time so far.
Kubica, who has joined Alfa in a reserve role for 2020, posted the fastest non-Mercedes time of the winter so far during his appearance during the morning.
The Polish star's 1:16.942 time came on a short qualifying-style run on Pirelli's fastest tyres.
Verstappen went second-quickest late on, four tenths adrift, to pip Racing Point's Sergio Perez. Both cars were on the C3 tyres, which lie in the middle of F1's testing range.
But Red Bull's day was book ended by technical trouble.
A suspension problem restricted Alex Albon to 29 laps during the morning before Verstappen ended the afternoon by spinning out at Turn 10 after his RB16 seemed to cut out.
"This morning we lost a little bit of track time, a small suspension issue that needed rectifying," Red Bull chief Christian Horner told Sky F1. "The afternoon was solid.
"Generally, the drivers - the best barometer in comparing the car to last year - believe some of the weaknesses from the RB15 have been addressed in this RB16 car."
Week One pacesetters Mercedes again ran longest - this time clocking 179 laps - but finished further down the timesheets as they concentrated on longer runs with slower tyres.
Lewis Hamilton was seventh, yet still only 0.6s adrift of Kubica despite using tyres which were three steps harder.
Valtteri Bottas took over the W11 for the afternoon and was ninth.
Like sister team Red Bull, AlphaTauri lost track time in the opening hours while they worked to repair their AT01 - yet they too finished strongly. Daniil Kvyat was fourth, with Pierre Gasly fifth.
With F1's shortened winter program now two-thirds complete, Ferrari are still yet to finish among the timesheet's frontrunners.
The Scuderia have admitted this is largely by design as they put into practice lessons learned from last winter, when they regularly set the pace at Barcelona only to start the season a long way behind Mercedes.
This year's early plan has been for the team to concentrate on mileage and correlating simulation data - with Day One proving a success on that front, as Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc added a combined 164 laps to the SF1000.
"We feel the improvement," said Vettel, who finished 10th quickest and spun during the morning. "Where is it an improvement? Obviously in the corners. It's very difficult to tell and testing is not the point to go fastest down the straight.
"All the work is based around the corners, just trying to get a feel and test different set-up items. The car is a step forward. Around here in high-speed corners, in Turn Three and Turn Nine it just feels a lot more comfortable around there."
McLaren have adopted a similar low-key approach, finishing outside the top 10 here, but remain very happy with their pre-season work as they prepare the MCL35 for Melbourne. Renault also prioritised laps over outright pace, while Williams recovered from an engine stoppage during Nicholas Latifi's morning in the car to top a century of laps.
F1 TEST TWO, DAY ONE RESULTS
1. Robert Kubica, Alfa Romeo, 1:16.942, 53 laps, C5 tyres
2. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:17.347, 84 laps, C3 tyres
3. Sergio Perez, Racing Point, 1:17.428, 84 laps, C3 tyres
4. Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri, 1:17.456, 61 laps, C3 tyres
5. Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, 1:17.540, 25 laps, C4 tyres
6. Alex Albon, Red Bull, 1:17.550, 29 laps, C2 tyres
7. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:17.540, 89 laps, C2 tyres
8. Lance Stroll, Racing Point, 1:17.787, 43 laps, C3 tyres
9. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 1:18.100, 90 laps, C3 tyres
10. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:18.113, 84 laps, C3 tyres
11. Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, 1:18.214, 53 laps, C2 tyres
12. Carlos Sainz, McLaren, 1:18.221, 46 laps, C3 tyres
13. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 1:18.244, 80 laps, C3 tyres
14. Nicholas Latifi, Williams, 1:18.300, 48 laps, C4 tyres
15. George Russell, Williams, 1:18.535, 59 laps, C3 tyres
16. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:18.670, 107 laps, C3 tyres
17. Lando Norris, McLaren, 1:18.826, 57 laps, C2 tyres