'Still a bit early to compare Lando and Max', says Ricciardo

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren and team mate Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) McLaren - 2022 Car Launch. 15.07.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Silverstone
© XPB 

Daniel Ricciardo has resisted calls to compare his current team mate at McLaren Lando Norris with his former colleague at Red Bull, Max Verstappen, but the Australian did admit that there were similarities between the pair.

Ricciardo and Verstappen were first paired up for the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix after the Dutch teen was promoted to the senior squad to replace Daniil Kvyat.

Verstappen won that maiden outing with Red Bull, the first of 15 Grand prix victories to date. The pair continued to work together as team mates in 2017 and 2018.

"Let's say, the skill on track, you could see just the raw speed is there," Ricciardo told the Italian edition of Motorsport.com this week in an exclusive interview.

Tensions grew as Ricciardo felt that team management was increasingly favouring the younger man. Following two seasons at Renault, Ricciardo is now at McLaren and finding Norris equally swift on the track.

I think very different personalities," he commented. "But I see it [the raw speed] with Lando this year. It's maybe a little bit early to compare him and Max, but for sure he's very good. Very, very good."

Norris is yet to win a race but has finished on the podium three times in 2021 alone while Ricciardo continues to find his feet at Woking.

The young Briton is also yet to clinch pole position for a race, but Verstappen himself didn't tick off that achievement until his 93rd Grand Prix race start in Hungary in 2019.

Before that he had looked on course to take the top spot in Mexico the previous year, which would have made him F1's youngest ever pole winner.

However he was denied that accomplishment by Ricciardo who managed to pip him by 0.026s in the final round of qualifying that weekend - something that Ricciardo says did not go down too well with the Red Bull hierarchy at the time.

"I knew if Max got pole that weekend he was the youngest ever pole sitter, so there was a record for him, a record for Red Bull," he recalled.

Pole for Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB14 and 2nd for Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB14.. 27.10.2018. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City

"For sure it's good for the brand, the team, the advertising and that brings income," he said. " So that business side I get, and actually for that reason I chose not to get mad.

"I just say, 'Okay this is business'. I know this is sport, but it is also business. I was just very happy with myself.

"All weekend in 2018 he was fastest every session, every session. And then Q3 I was there [...] from nowhere," he continued. "I was just proud that.

"Obviously Max was driving very, very well. It just confirmed to me the belief I had in myself," he said. "One year before actually in Mexico, I think Max outqualified me by nearly one second. It was a really strange weekend!"

The situation is very different at McLaren, where Ricciardo is the 'new boy' on the team while Norris has been firmly embedded at the squad since his F1 debut in Australia in 2019.

Although Ricciardo narrowly out-qualified him in their first two races together in Bahrain and Imola, it's been Norris who has generally come out on top on Saturday in 2021.

Together they've helped McLaren move up to third place in the constructors championship, but a double DNF at Hungary last weekend means that they're now on equal points with Ferrari.

Norris retired after being involved in the first lap accident triggered by Valtteri Bottas, while Ricciardo's car was damaged in a separate incident and could only manage 11th place at the chequered flag.

Ricciardo has said there is a risk he would grow to resent the sport if his focus narrowed to just beating Norris but admitted that it had been "a very unexpected and difficult season so far."

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl says he expected Ricciardo to come good in the second half of 2021, citing his season-best fifth place in the British Grand Prix last month as evidence.

"As Daniel said also after the race, there’s still things obviously to improve to match Lando, but the important thing is he’s making steps," Seidl noted.

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