‘Play Dirty. Stay Fair’.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo has made his intentions clear for 2019, decorating his race helmet with the provocative motto before his Renault debut at this week’s Formula One season opener in Melbourne.
It’s a bold statement, but former F1 driver Mark Webber reckons a lot more will need to happen for the 29-year-old Ricciardo to win a race for his new team this year.
Ricciardo will unveil his new helmet design when the Australian Grand Prix gets under way, just one of many changes for the popular driver since he was last sighted at Albert Park last year.
After a shock decision to end his five-year Red Bull stint, Ricciardo will boast a new team, new teammate in Nico Hulkenberg and it seems a new attitude.
But Webber believes Ricciardo will need something else if he is to be successful in 2019 – plenty of luck.
Webber could not see Renault threatening Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull any time soon but thinks if anyone could jag a win from the “big three” it was Ricciardo.
“He’d need some stars lining up, but it can happen,” Webber told The Express newspaper in UK.
“He’s not ballistically quick over one lap but when it comes to racing, if anyone can pull something out of that Renault it’s him.
“It’s going to be a long campaign to get them competitive, but he’ll lift that team. There’s no doubt about it.”
Webber believed Ricciardo’s former Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen was the dark horse.
He rated Verstappen on a par with Mercedes’ five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and ahead of Ferrari’s four-time series winner Sebastian Vettel.
“There’s the Max Verstappen factor,” Webber said.
“In those conditions (in Melbourne), Max and Lewis Hamilton are the best in the world.
“Max is going to take a lot of risks, put his nose in everywhere.”
Webber’s praise for Verstappen would no doubt irk Ricciardo.
It has been revealed that one of the main reasons why Ricciardo took up a two-year Renault deal was that the Australian felt he was playing second fiddle to Verstappen at Red Bull.
As detailed in a new documentary series Formula 1: Drive To Survive, their falling out was sealed when the pair collided at last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Ricciardo’s best showing at Melbourne is fourth, which he has achieved twice.
No local has finished on the podium since the Australian Grand Prix became a world championship round in 1985.