Daniel Ricciardo believes his current season performance will go down as one of his best in Formula 1 should he end his Renault stint fourth in the 2020 drivers’ championship.
The battle for fourth in the drivers’ standings is set to go down to the final race, with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Ricciardo covered by four points.
Third in the championship in 2014 and 2016, Ricciardo has already recorded two podiums in 2020, and has scored nearly twice as many points through 14 races this season than his entire 21-race campaign in 2019.
The Australian believes he has made significant progress as a driver in his time at Renault, recently saying his 2020 campaign has been his most “satisfying” since 2016.
“About half an hour ago I was watching an onboard of me around here last year, which was race two of 2019, and my second race in the Renault, and it is funny because I know it was me in the car, I know what was going through my head when I look at an old on-board of myself,” he said in Bahrain, where he failed to finish.
“I can even see some tendencies that I have or some lack of confidence in some areas of the track, so I watch that now and I’m like, ‘Okay, it is not the same driver that was here 18 months ago’.
“I’ve definitely come a long way with this team and with this car, and I feel a lot more comfortable now.
“It is hard to talk highly about yourself, but I’ve been very pleased with the way I performed (this season), so it is up there. There are still three to go so if I close these three out strong then I will definitely say it is up there with my best season.”
Ricciardo claimed podiums at the Nurburgring and Imola to help Renault to its first rostrum visits since the French manufacturer’s full works return in 2016.
The Enstone-based team is also entrenched in a close battle for third in the constructors’ championship, with Racing Point, McLaren, Renault and Ferrari covered by just 24 points.
While he conceded leaving Renault won’t be easy, Ricciardo believes helping his “underdog” team to third, in line with his own fourth-place ambitions, would help him leave the team feeling “fulfilled”.
“Moving on does make it sometimes tricky for me, but I do feel that this year has certainly solidified a lot of what I wanted to get out of this chapter, and my career with Renault,” the 31-year-old said.
“Last year was certainly still a year of understanding within myself and also the team. This year we certainly turned a corner, and a lot of us in the team can openly say we’ve actually done even better than we anticipated.
“A couple of podiums has been great, and it is not done yet. I certainly want to close this book the best way possible.
“It is so close, and I keep thinking Racing Point and McLaren, but there is also Ferrari in the mix… I do want to get on top of those battles to leave feeling fulfilled. That’ll have a big impact on how I feel leaving.
“So I will leave it all on the table and will move on with happiness.”
Free Practice 1 for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix will commence at 22:00 AEDT tonight.