Former grand prix winner Mark Webber is not short of praise for fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo, saying the Red Bull driver “is quicker than I ever was”.
Webber bowed out of F1 at the end of the 2013 season, with Ricciardo stepping up from Toro Rosso to replace him. The younger Aussie then enjoyed a breakout year that saw him outshine four-time world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel and secure three race wins – the only non-Mercedes driver to do so in 2014.
Speaking to CNN ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Webber, who won nine grands prix in his F1 career, tips Ricciardo for more success in the future.
“Obviously he is extremely quick,” the 39-year-old said. “He’s got a lot of experience so he’s now one of the most experienced guys at the front pushing for victories, pushing for championships. He’s definitely has championships in him in the future. I guess just put the right scenario on his doorstep and he’ll capture that I am sure.
“He needs the right car to get the job done, obviously we know that. He’s got to get himself in that scenario again, which he had a few years ago. And he is more than capable of that. I think he is quicker and faster than I ever was so he is in good shape there and has a good chance to do well and continue to fly the flag for more Aussies coming over.”
Webber is quite aware of the obstacles Australian racers have to overcome to reach F1, having toiled for several years in Europe before earning a Minardi seat in 2002. This makes the reigning FIA WEC champion all the more happy to see Ricciardo pick up the mantle right away.
“For us to come through and get into Formula One as Australians, we know the strike rate is extremely low. I think there was a 21 or 22-year gap between Alan Jones winning a race and myself winning a race [editor’s note: 28 years actually between the 1981 Caesars Palace Grand Prix and 2009 German Grand Prix].
“To get points and podiums is really really hard, even to arrive in Formula One and keep a long-term contract was difficult for Australians. So to have such a quick turnover, to have Daniel in my slipstream if you like, [Australia is] competing and we are in good hands.”