Considering that Renault has not won a F1 race since the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in 2013, it is difficult to see much cause for optimism when the green flag drops for the race this weekend.
Ricciardo has driving talent, of that there is no doubt, but can Renault give him a car that can keep pace with those of Mercedes, Ferrari, or for that matter, Red Bull?
They have been middle-of-the-packers for a long time now and finished fourth in the constructors’ championship last year.
F1 plans to introduce major technical changes to the way F1 racing in conducted and the question now becomes whether Renault can win just one race over the course of the next two seasons.
If Ricciardo can somehow guide Renault to a podium of any sort, any questions of his ability can be permanently shelved. It is tough to beat Mercedes and Ferrari without some luck in the form of a crash or penalty, as those two teams have the equipment and drivers to win almost every time out.
F1 made it onto the map of Australia when Mark Webber finished fifth at Albert Park in 2002. Webber changed seats numerous times before joining Red Bull and finally winning in Germany in 2009.
Webber retired at the end of 2013, when he surrendered the wheel to Ricciardo.
For the amount of money Renault is paying Ricciardo, it would be thought he could come up with something more inspiring, but he instead told reporters, I would love to say we will step up on a podium this year, if I am being realistic that is probably a longshot at this stage,’’ Ricciardo said during pre-season testing.
He is aiming at narrowing the gap to third, meaning that his most optimistic view is catching Red Bull.
His pragmatism is refreshing, as athletes usually take the company line that this year is the year, but Ricciardo would say only, “I can’t see anyone beating Mercedes, maybe Ferrari, in this season coming. So I don’t think I’m necessarily sacrificing any victories,” Ricciardo said about his switch.
Perhaps Mercedes and Ferrari need to have some weight added, in order to level the track, as is done with Thoroughbred racing.