McLaren tech boss James Key says Carlos Sainz's departure has "left a gap" at the Woking-based outfit, but one that his replacement Daniel Ricciardo will fill quite well.
Ricciardo's move to McLaren for 2021 was announced in May of last year in the wake of Sainz's decision to respond to Ferrari's call.
The Spaniard, thanks to his talent and consistency, was a pillar for the papaya squad, scoring 105 points last season, including a podium at the Italian GP at Monza, a race Sainz almost won.
But Key isn't short of compliments for McLaren's new driver.
"It will leave a gap," Key said in a recent F1 Nation podcast when queried on Sainz's transfer to the Scuderia. "But his replacement will fill [the gap] very well.
"It’s great to have Dan on board, and having worked with him… in the past, I know he’ll bring new and different opinions and ways of working to the team, which will be welcome.
"So there’s a gap to fill, but we’ve got a great guy to fill it.
"He’ll bring great experience. He’ll bring a lighter, sort of jovial touch as well in some cases.
"He’s a great character out of the car as well as in, but he’ll bring a great deal of experience and a huge amount of determination."
Ricciardo's trademark smile and good nature is often highlighted. But Key says that underneath the warm and friendly demeanor lies a fiercely competitive character.
"I think what always impressed me with Daniel is this massive amount of determination he has, particularly when he’s driving; you can really feel and see that.
"You listen to his radio messages when he’s driving, and he’s a very different character to when he’s out of the car and relaxed.
"He’s incredibly determined when he’s racing, and I think that with his experience and his confidence - and what he can do, now that he’s a genuine well-established race winner - I think all of that will bring good confidence to the team, and a slightly different kind of aspect to how we see certain things with the car technically as well. He’ll bring good knowledge in for that."
McLaren ambitions to continue its trend higher this season and beyond, and Key believes Ricciardo is just the right driver to carry the team forward.
"We would obviously like to become a top team ourselves, and I think with his help, we can make more steps in that direction," said the British engineer.
"I think he can compete at [the top echelons of the sport], and we’ve seen him do it in past years.
"I think he’s one of those drivers who could step into any one of the top teams and do well… I rate him extremely highly."