SHANGHAI, China — Ask anyone who the best overtaker in Formula One is, and you’ll probably hear Daniel Ricciardo’s name mentioned quite a bit.
In recent years, the Australian has made a name for himself as the king of late braking, pulling off more jaw-dropping passes than just about anyone else on the grid. Perhaps his greatest overtaking exhibition came during last year’s Chinese Grand Prix, when he went from P6 to the lead in just nine laps to claim an unlikely victory for Red Bull.
But since joining Renault ahead of the 2019 season, we haven’t seen much of Ricciardo’s highly admired skill set, and he returns to Shanghai for the 1,000th Formula One world championship race lacking confidence in that area.
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“I don’t want to say I’m nowhere [with my overtaking], but of course I was a bit of a standout in a Red Bull car,” Ricciardo said. “As yet, I haven’t had that level of confidence on braking as I did last year. It’s more on a knife edge in that area, and I’ve noticed I’m locking a wheel here or there.
“But I think your style will always be a part of you, and I still want to be that aggressive driver on the brakes, But that will come with confidence. That’s what I want to get back to. I still want my competitors to fear me.”
Switching teams is always going to bring challenges, and the first two races of the season in Australia and Bahrain — both of which ended in retirements for Ricciardo — have, if anything, been learning experiences for the former Red Bull man.
“It’s no secret that we are not on the pace of the car I had last year, so that’s something I need to figure out again,” Ricciardo said after the Bahrain Grand Prix. “In Charles [Leclerc’s] situation, coming up this year, it is a bit like me when I came from Toro Rosso to Red Bull. Everything becomes easier, you have more grip, and it is like, ‘Oh, wow, the car can do this?’
“Figuring out what’s going to work best can be frustrating at times, but I see the excitement at the moment. A bit of patience and discipline for me, but that’s cool.”
Teammate Nico Hulkenberg believes Ricciardo can rediscover his mojo but insists it will take time for him to reach peak confidence.
“I’m not surprised that he needs some time in the car, understand it and get his head around it,” Hulkenberg said. “He knows these generation cars and comes from a very good reference to a lower reference, so it’s a harder one to take, and you need to readjust and reset a little bit.”