SUZUKA, Japan — Daniel Ricciardo only has five races left at Red Bull before he makes his off-season move to Renault and he is desperate for a return to the podium, knowing full well how difficult they will be to attain next year.
Ricciardo is the only driver outside of championship protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel to have won multiple races this season. His two victories came early in the year in China and Monaco but since then he hasn’t really threatened and his win in Monte Carlo, 10 races ago, is still the last time he stood on a podium.
Speaking ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, Ricciardo said he is looking to make the most of his final races as a Red Bull driver and is hopeful of a return to the rostrum before it might be too late.
“I had two big results this year, that’s it. You take away the wins there hasn’t been any seconds or thirds, Ricciardo said. “Normally I don’t like seconds or thirds but I’ll take it for sure now to get back on the podium and have a bit of champagne. Obviously coming up to next year, we’re realistic and know it would be very slim to get one.
“When I say I’ll take it, I don’t mean I’m going to concede to a podium. It’s been a long run without so I’d love one. At least give me one more! When I say give me, I’ve still got to work for it, we’ve still got a good chance. We’ll make the most of it, that’s what I’ll try and do.”
In Ricciardo’s 10 races without a podium, teammate Max Verstappen has managed five of his own to comprehensively outscore the Australian 123-62 since the Monaco Grand Prix. While Ricciardo admits Verstappen has been in better form, he clarified that it’s not as simple as being braver on track.
“Not taking anything away from Max — for sure he’s fast and been driving well — but it’s not necessarily like ‘s—, he had bigger balls in that corner’, Ricciardo said. “I’d like to be more proactive with some things in setup, I feel like a lot of the time we understand it but it’s too late. I guess we’re still learning but he’s been getting more on top of it than I have.
“Even if the season ended today, I’d still look back on the year with some fond memories. I have improved some things but I haven’t really got everything out of it, or maybe Max is just getting a lot better.”