Christian Horner now rates Daniel Ricciardo as Formula One’s best overtaker but admits he once had his reservations about the Australian’s ability to go wheel to wheel with rivals.
Ricciardo will move to Renault 2019 but in his five seasons with Red Bull has made decisive race-winning moves his trademark, scoring seven victories in that time. But his promotion to the team in 2014 was never straightforward, according to team boss Horner, as he had never been given the chance to showcase his talent during stints with HRT and Toro Rosso.
“He’s been a pleasure to have in the team the last five years,” Horner said. “He’s been with Red Bull since 2007 and it has been great to see him grow and evolve.
“Ironically when we were first faced with a dilemma of who do we replace Mark Webber with. Jean-Eric Vergne, there was Daniel Ricciardo, there was Kimi Raikkonen, and our biggest concern about Daniel wasn’t his pace but it was that we hadn’t seen him race wheel to wheel while he was at Toro Rosso and ever he’s been in a Red Bull Racing car he’s done nothing but overtake and arguably has become the best overtaker in the business.”
Ricciardo credits his first season with Red Bull — when he famously out-performed four-time world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel — as changing the perception people had of him.
Writing on the Red Bull website ahead of his final race for the team in Abu Dhabi, he said: “That’s the year I look back at being the most fun for me and the most important for my career since. The wins were big, and I had a massive battle with Fernando [Alonso] in Germany where we raced really hard but fair, and he had some praise for me afterwards which was big at the time.
“I feel ’14 didn’t just shape me and my approach from then on, it changed the level of overtaking from other guys in the sport as well. Not many people were doing that, coming from a long way back and trying big passing moves.
“Maybe they learned from me and the way I was racing, so perhaps I set a new level and showed people what was possible, and the drivers that were willing to try it were trying it. I realise that sounds a bit cocky, but I really do believe that. I’m not saying all of them can do it, but at least more of them are trying!”