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CONFIRMED Aussie F1 ace Daniel Ricciardo moves to McLaren

By Tim Robson, 14 May 2020 Motorsport

Daniel Ricciardo 2020

F1's 2020 silly season has just ramped up, as Daniel Ricciardo jumps ship from Renault

Australian F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo will jump ship from Renault to McLaren, in the wake of the confirmation of Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel's departure from Ferrari.

He has signed a multi-year deal that kicks off in 2021.

“Signing Daniel is another step forward in our long-term plan and will bring an exciting new dimension to the team, alongside Lando. This is good news for our team, partners and of course our fans," said team principal Zak Brown.

“I also want to pay tribute to Carlos for the excellent job he has been doing for McLaren in helping our performance recovery plan. He is a real team player and we wish him well for his future beyond McLaren.”

Vettel's announcement triggered a tsunami of driver movements, with Spanish racer Carlos Sainz, whose departure has now been confirmed after two years at McLaren, to join young Monegasque ace Charles LeClerc at Ferrari on a two-year deal.

There's a certain irony here - Sainz was forced to vacate his seat for Ricciardo to join Renault in 2019.

With Sainz supposedly bound for Maranello this, in turn, has freed up a seat at a revitalised McLaren, which is finding success after a period in the doldrums.

It's this success that has attracted Western Australian Daniel Ricciardo, whose switch from Red Bull to Renault in 2019 has - unsurprisingly to some - netted nothing in the way of results.

It's well known that McLaren courted Ricciardo in 2018 as the Aussie F1 ace, with seven wins to his name, struggled to decide on a future away from the Red Bull team he'd called home for a decade.

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Ricciardo signed for the French powerhouse team under the illusion that Renault would produce the pace that has carried it to multiple world titles during its time in F1.

Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 2021

Lando Norris will partner Ricciardo in 2021

However, Ricciardo's best place in 2019 was fourth, suffering an ignominious self-inflicted wing failure in his first Australian Grand Prix with the team.

And in F1, you are only as good as the car you find yourself in - as Mark Webber can attest.

His two-year contract  - while a good one for Daniel Ricciardo's net worth - hasn't heralded a return to fortune for Renault.

And the split appears to be less than harmonious.

“Within the unprecedented context of the 2020 season, discussions held with Daniel Ricciardo concerning a renewal of his contract beyond the end of 2020 have not been successful,' reads a terse press release from Renault

“In our sport, and particularly within the current extraordinary situation, reciprocated confidence, unity and commitment are, more than ever, critical values for a works team,” said Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul, in an unsubtle dig at Ricciardo.

“I am confident that the 2020 season will allow us to accomplish even more together. Our ambitions and the strategy of Renault DP World F1 Team remain unchanged." 

By contrast, McLaren's fortunes could not have gotten any lower at the end of 2017, after an acrimonious split with engine supplier Honda pushed the famed UK team into the hands of - somewhat ironically for Ricciardo - Renault to supply its power units.

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Since then, the Woking-based team has come on in leaps and bounds, and is now the fourth-best team in pit lane behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

Ricciardo will join the McLaren team at a time where it's about to switch from Renault to Mercedes power.

McLaren-Mercedes formed one of the most dynamic partnerships in the modern F1 age before Mercedes acquired the Brawn F1 team to form its own squad in 2014.

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and the crushing effect that it's had on new car sales, though, there is a very real possibility that Mercedes will announce that it's pulling out of F1 at the end of 2020.

MORE Renault's terrible F1 weekend actually got worse

After a lengthy period of absolute domination, Mercedes may well consider its time in F1 as a manufacturer is up, and it may roll back its efforts into simply supplying other teams with engines on a customer basis.

Looks like 2022 could be a very good year for a certain lanky Aussie with a Cheshire-cat grin.