When he’s on his day he can be absolutely sensational, and he’s definitely the most charismatic and lovable guy on the grid, but if you zoom out and look at his performances over entire seasons, it’s mostly underwhelming; is Daniel Ricciardo overrated?
This year really looked like it was going to be Dani Ric’s year. The Aussie started out equally as strong as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, as all three drivers won two of the first six races. With Ferrari having an empty seat for 2019 at that time, Italian media pushed hard for Ferrari to snap up Ricciardo to replace veteran Kimi Raikkonen, who had started the year quite poorly (ask the mechanic he ran over).
And it was valid for the Italian media to do that. At the time. We had two incredible wins fresh in our minds and Ricciardo, who was on an expiring deal at Red Bull, had said many times that he wanted to go to the team where he could compete for a championship most. He was essentially flirting with Ferrari and Mercedes.
Max Verstappen’s weekly blunders were also making him look even better, as the Dutchman, who is (rightfully) hailed as the next big thing, continually shot himself in the foot with some really silly mistakes early this season.
Consistency versus complacency
Success in Formula 1, much like baking a delicious lemon Victoria sponge, is all about consistency. It’s exactly why Hamilton and Mercedes keep on winning championships – they never slip up. Even when the Brit is not winning, and when he knows heading into a weekend that he’ll be in the second or third quickest car, he’ll always push as hard as he can, forcing Ferrari’s or Red Bull’s hand. It even led to some very unlikely wins like in Monza, where he dealt a hammer blow to Ferrari right in their back garden.
Ricciardo just doesn’t seem to be wired that way. Any circuit where it’s a given that Red Bull won’t win, he’ll seemingly have a very quiet qualifying and race. Since that win in Monaco, the Aussie hasn’t climbed the podium a single time, in comparison to his teammate Verstappen, who did so six times since then.
It’s the same story in qualifying. Again, since Monaco where he grabbed pole position, he has only once beaten any of the top six cars, and he’s never beaten Verstappen in qualifying since then either. Monaco was 14 races ago. He’s supposed to be a qualifying expert!
That’s not consistency – it’s complacency. Sure, he’s had bad luck with mechanical issues. You can’t use that as an excuse for the entire season, though, as Verstappen is clearly in the trenches every race, driving with his heart on his sleeve battling the superior cars of Mercedes and Ferrari, gaining positions in whatever way possible. That’s simply not the case with Ricciardo – the hunger to fight for every inch of track, whether it’s for P1 or P16, it’s just not there. He usually chugs along and finishes in P6, or higher if he’s lucky and someone got hurt in front of him.
Some people think that Ricciardo’s lack of performance in recent months is because of the fact that he’s leaving Red Bull at the end of the year. He’s checked out, he’s just counting down the days until he moves to Renault.
That’s not true. No F1 driver is like that. They’re incredibly competitive human beings, otherwise they wouldn’t be where they are. They won’t actively try less hard because they don’t want to be at their team anymore. Especially in Ricciardo’s case, as he has admitted himself that he knows he won’t be getting on the podium with Renault in the near future. That would only give him more reason to try and win now, or at least climb the podium.
What is possible is that Verstappen gets all the new and updated parts first now. That could be a logical explanation as for why the 21-year-old has been a class apart from Dani Ric ever since his Renault-announcement. Or maybe he’s just better than the 29-year-old. But that’s a different debate.
So is he overrated?
It depends on how highly you rate him. If you think he’s on par with the likes of Hamilton, Verstappen, or Sebastian Vettel in terms of talent – yes, he’s overrated.
He’s in that class below. Great talents, but missing that óne ingredient to be a world champion. Valtteri Bottas misses aggressiveness, and Ricciardo misses consistency.
Listen to Jeremy Clarkson describing Gilles Villeneuve here when comparing him to Ayrton Senna. That’s exactly the same difference between Ricciardo and the Hamiltons and the Vettels of the world (except they’re not on Senna’s level).
I love a licked and sent Dani Ric stamp as much as the next guy, and when he’s feeling it he’s truly the most fun thing to watch in F1, but he’s simply not on the same level as some of the other guys in the top teams. He can’t string multiple results together, and he can disappear for several months. Case in point: He has two wins this season and Verstappen has one, but the Dutchman is 27 points ahead of him in the championship.
Look past the classic wins and the breathtaking triple overtakes. Look past that infectious smile of his. The Aussie is a good driver capable of great things, but he’s not in the top tier, unlike what most people think. So, as much as it pains me to say this; I think Daniel Ricciardo is overrated.