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Formula 1

Best driver of 2020 F1 season ‘not obvious’ – Ricciardo

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Daniel Ricciardo says picking the best driver of the 2020 Formula 1 season is not “obvious” as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have such similar characteristics and “seven drivers” could make a case for being number one.

Dec 16 : Our verdict on the top 10 F1 drivers of 2020

Ricciardo, who finished fifth in the championship in his farewell Renault season before joining McLaren, made himself a slightly tongue-in-cheek pick for number one on an appearance in the Australian Grand Prix’s In The Fast Lane podcast after the 2020 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

The two-time 2020 podium finisher put together a top 10 with hosts Matt Clayton and Michael Lamonato and joked it was “really stressful” at the end.

Ricciardo was handed the first pick but said seven-time world champion Hamilton, who beat Michael Schumacher’s race win record in 2020 and matched his title count as well, did not stand head and shoulders above the likes of Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.

“I don’t think it’s that obvious,” said Ricciardo. “Because I think a lot of people stepped up this year.

Dec 15 : Alonso fastest in controversial F1 test outing

“I mean the Mr Consistent at the top of course is your Lewis Hamilton. So he’s going to be there, whether it’s first, second, he’s going to be there.

“A lot of drivers can be quick on a Friday practice, but are they quick in Q3 on Saturday when it counts?” :: Daniel Ricciardo

“Then you go down to Red Bull and Max is always there. So he’s in contention.

“The way Charles got that Ferrari doing things this year… but then again I feel like probably Charles made more mistakes, so I wouldn’t put him there.”

Pushed for his pick, Ricciardo laughed: “Yeah…probably myself! After all that. It’s hard not picking yourself but it’s also hard picking yourself because you sound like a bit of a douche.

“Put it this way, I would put myself, Max, and Lewis in the top three. But I’d sneak myself a nose in front.”

Ricciardo had put Hamilton’s statistics into perspective earlier this season when he said he would have to win every race for four years to match Hamilton’s tally of 95 race wins.

But Ricciardo said “the consistency of him being able to do it and the few mistakes as well” means Hamilton deserves credit for posting those numbers.

Daniel Ricciardo

“He’s normally nailing his starts, he’s clean, he just executes well when it counts,” said Ricciardo.

“And I think that really separates the good and the great in this sport.

Nov 23 : Criticisms of Lewis Hamilton – fair or false?

“A lot of drivers can be quick on a Friday practice, but are they quick in Q3 on Saturday when it counts?

“You can have all the talent in the world but if you don’t shine under the lights then what’s it good for?”

Ricciardo said Verstappen has developed in the same way. His former Red Bull team-mate won twice and finished third in the championship in 2020, narrowly missing out on the runner-up position to Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.

It was Verstappen’s most complete and consistent season, though a title challenge failed to materialise as Red Bull spent much of the championship dialling out an aerodynamic flaw at the rear of its car.

Ricciardo spent almost three seasons alongside Verstappen at Red Bull, and when he left for Renault at the end of 2018 had been consistently shaded by his team-mate once Verstappen had moved past a shaky start to the year littered with errors.

Daniel Ricciardo Max Verstappen Red Bull Baku 2018

“I think he definitely did a large step of his development through 2016 and then 2017,” said Ricciardo.

“I also felt like the new cars, when we changed to the bigger tyres and all that in 2017, having more grip actually helped him or suited him as well.

“He was already doing very well and then those cars were more for him as well.

Mar 30 : How good is Max Verstappen?

“Everyone says he was one of the best go-karters ever, and on a go-kart there’s a lot of grip in that and I thought maybe he just does like a car that really sticks.

“So, 2017, I think already the speed was there. And then there was still the mistakes which he needed to clean up, even through a bit of 2018.

“But once you clean that up, now he’s just got that high level of consistency with few mistakes.”

Charles Leclerc Ferrari Daniel Ricciardo Renault Nurburgring 2020

In the podcast, Ricciardo also commented on Leclerc’s underdog season with Ferrari and the range of midfield stars in a year that had five winners and 13 podium finishers.

“I honestly feel like probably the top seven could all be number one,” he said.

“Probably at least seven of us this year have been good enough for that number one spot at moments.”

To hear Ricciardo’s full interview and the rest of the top 10, including Ricciardo’s surprise final entry, listen to the podcast here

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