Is Daniel Ricciardo leaving Renault at the wrong time?

Daniel Ricciardo is on his way to McLaren at the end of this season, but Renault’s recent good form suggests that this could be a move in the wrong direction for the Australian.

Ricciardo has been through many ups and downs throughout his Formula 1 career so far, yet whilst it appears he is currently on an up, he looks set to lose out by leaving Renault behind next season.

Renault’s form during the 2020 season has been impressive considering their poor performance last year. So far, Ricciardo has finished in the points seven times out of nine races, achieving fourth place finishes at Silverstone, Spa and Mugello.

The French team has taken positive strides in the last few rounds, which is evident from Ricciardo’s top six finishes in the last four races.

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This series of good results from both Ricciardo and his teammate, Esteban Ocon, have landed Renault fifth in the constructor’s championship on 99 points, only seven behind McLaren in third and five behind Racing Point in fourth.

This is an excellent position for Renault to be in considering they finished the 2019 season in fifth place on 91 points.

If Renault continue to get stronger and perform better in the upcoming races, they could quickly overtake McLaren in the standings and start building a gap from there. There is the possibility that if this were to happen, it would be a bitter pill for Ricciardo to swallow knowing he is leaving the team at the end of 2020.

If things don’t go to plan at McLaren for Ricciardo, it wouldn’t be the first time that a change of team has not worked out for him.

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The 31-year-old has a history of switching teams at the wrong time, notably when he left Red Bull Racing for Renault after the 2018 season just before Ferrari’s downfall paved the way for them to become arguably the second best team.

Meanwhile Ricciardo was struggling in the Renault, logging five DNFs, one disqualification and only eight points finishes all season. After all races were completed, he was left ninth in the drivers’ championship on 54 points.

Back in current times, Ricciardo is only two points behind his future McLaren teammate, Lando Norris, on 63 points in sixth.

Going purely off the number of points each team and driver has, it would appear that they are very evenly matched, although it is worth noting that Renault have been gradually improving race by race, whereas McLaren have had a more consistent approach.

Ricciardo’s bad timing when switching teams is synonymous with Fernando Alonso’s Formula 1 career, where he has also suffered from poor timing.

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Alonso particularly struggled when he rejoined Renault in 2008 where he only managed fifth in the drivers’ standings and then ninth the following year.

He then moved to Ferrari for 2010 where he finished second overall behind Sebastian Vettel in the Renault-powered Red Bull. Alonso completed the 2012 and 2013 seasons in a similar fashion, second behind Vettel.

Alonso’s Ferrari years were a tale of “what could have been” considering he had been offered a seat with Red Bull back in 2009.

He returns to the sport next year with the rebranded Renault team – Alpine.

Things may be different for Alonso this time around if he can pick up where Ricciardo leaves off and build on the already positive performances from Renault as he returns to the team where he won his first drivers’ championship title in 2005.

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He has already been involved in preseason preparations with the team, including a visit to the factory.

However, before we reach 2021, there are still seven races left where teams will continue to battle it out for higher places in the constructors’ standings, including a return to the Nürburgring in Germany this coming weekend.

It will be interesting to see how well Ricciardo can do at a track he has faced before when driving for Toro Rosso. The last time he was there in 2013, he finished 12th.

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Hopefully we will see the midfield teams continue to improve and exhibit some good racing to provide an exciting end to the season.

If the current competition between Renault, Racing Point and McLaren this year is anything to go off, Formula One fans can be sure that there are some thrilling battles coming between Alonso, Vettel and Ricciardo in the 2021 season.