Ricciardo: I’m one of the ‘top tier’ F1 drivers

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo believes he is a member of the small group of ‘top tier’ Formula 1 drivers capable of winning races.

The seven-time grand prix winner suggested that there is little to split those at the top end of the sport.

“There are rarely unicorns in sport,” he told Autocar.

“There’s always a small handful of people who have the talent to win on any given day, and our sport is no different.”

F1’s modern era has been dominated by Mercedes, and largely by Lewis Hamilton.

The 35-year-old Englishman has snagged five of his six world championships under the current hybrid formula, though Ricciardo suggests he’s not unbeatable.

“I believe there’s a group of us at the top tier, and I believe I and a handful of others, in the same car, could have given him (Hamilton) a run for those titles.

“I’m in that top group,” he added.

“As far as talent or ability to push a car to the limit – the skill set – there are a few of us that can get there.

“But we need the right car, and then, for this group, the difference is less about speed and more about the ability to nail results race after race.

“On a given day, a few of us could win.”

Ricciardo did, however, reserve special mention for Hamilton as the current benchmark driver in the sport.

“Where you have to hand it to Lewis is that he does it time and time again,” Ricciardo said.

“What separates that little group, beyond the car, is the mental and physical ability to deal with everything this sport throws at you, week in, week out.

“It’s the days when your health isn’t so good, or you’re feeling a bit jet-lagged, or you’ve just had a bad week. If you can still get in the car and deliver on them, then you can be champion.

“The point with Lewis – the point that makes him special – is that he has done that six times.

“Even if you argue he’s had the best equipment, that achievement is remarkable.

“To stay on himself year after year, to keep pushing himself, to take on the pressure of being the one we’re all hunting: that’s remarkable.

“For all my confidence – and I’m certain I could win a title against him – could I battle and beat him year after year? I don’t know. It’s some achievement, and it warrants respect.”

Ricciardo is poised to compete in his second season with Renault once the campaign gets going on July 3-5 in Austria.

He’ll then join McLaren in place of Carlos Sainz for 2021.

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