Not Ricciardo: Former F1 driver surprised Ferrari did not follow up on initial instinct

Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo may have signed a three-year contract at McLaren, but he was reportedly a target for Ferrari after things between Sebastian Vettel and the Italian outfit went sour last season.

The Maranello eventually decided to put its faith behind Spanish driver Carlos Sainz, while Vettel moved to Aston Martin ahead of the upcoming campaign.

Former F1 driver Romain Grosjean believes that Ferrari missed a trick and the team should have acted on its initial instinct in backing the talented Australian driver.

Ricciardo has seven race wins and 31 podium finishes spread across his Formula 1 career, but he has never really been involved in a title challenge during the course of his career.

At the age of 29, therefore, it surprised a few when it was announced that he had signed a three-year contract at McLaren. Given he is in the prime of his career, and with both Mercedes seats currently a year away from potentially being vacant, it has been argued that he could have signed a shorter contract.

Reports have also emerged that claim Ricciardo has an exit clause in his contract that can be activated by two teams. In the light of that, you may even say that he has signed the ideal deal.

McLaren has been on a resurgent upward trajectory recently, having finished last season in third spot in the overall constructors’ standings.

While Ricciardo found himself short of luck at times, it was also blatantly clear by the end of his Red Bull spell that the Austrian team was going to favour Max Verstappen.

A switch to Renault followed for Ricciardo, but this was always going to be just a makeshift arrangement. His time at Renault may have lined his pockets, but he knew that the team was far from competitive.

Former F1 driver Grosjean believes Ferrari missed a trick in opting for Sainz. He believes Ricciardo would have proven to be a far better candidate and added more steal to their driver line-up.

“A sensible couple, Charles is the future. Although I was surprised by the choice to take Carlos, who also went very well with McLaren,” Grosjean said.

“I would have taken Ricciardo.” 

Grosjean further elaborated on his experience with the 2020 Ferrari engine.

“In qualifying, the unit was really down, a little less in the race: but you couldn’t overtake,” he said.

“But there is another factor to consider. In 2019, Ferrari had such a good unit that it pushed Mercedes and Honda to improve a lot. And when in Maranello they had to change systems, the others had made a leap forward.”

Having finished last year in 6th spot in the constructors’ standings, Ferrari has worked hard in the off-season to find more power. Pre-season testing in Bahrain has been positive for the team and it will be buoyed by the fact that it did not face any reliability issues.

Ferrari will be hopeful the changes it has made to the rear of its car will give it some gain. However, they would not want to get too far ahead of themselves. A simple re-build is all the team would be hoping for this year, with 2022 a more realistic target for a title challenge.

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