Double Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen believes Daniel Ricciardo’s move to McLaren from 2021 will prove to be a successful partnership that will yield strong results for the seven-time Grand Prix winner.
Hakkinen competed with the Woking squad for nine seasons between 1993 and 2001, snaring 20 Grand Prix victories and back-to-back titles in ’98 and ’99.
Now the 51-year-old is confident that Ricciardo will be the final link in bridging the gap that currently segregates the top teams from the midfield.
“Having Ricciardo join McLaren, that is a fabulous result for Zak Brown and his team, how they’ve been able to get Ricciardo to join,” Hakkinen told the Inside Formula 1 podcast.
“He’s a great talent, a great driver. Suddenly he’s not getting results and it’s a shame so it’s great news that he’s joined McLaren because they are positively on their way to good success.”
Ricciardo’s signing perhaps came as a surprise to the paddock considering the 30-year-old only joined pitlane rivals Renault in 2019.
But Hakkinen admits that Ricciardo’s decision to leave the French marque with only pre-season testing complete suggests the Australian was dissatisfied with the team’s lack in performance and is seeking a path back to towards the front of the grid.
“Is the one-year enough? Yes,” Hakkinen added.
“You know the potential of the team, how powerful the engine is, how good the aerodynamic people that you have are, what is the final situation of the team, a lot of different elements guide you already to know what is happening today and the future.
“One year, when Ricciardo is there racing, I’m sure he knew what was happening and if he did not know, it is pretty shocking for me.”
2019 saw McLaren have their most complete season since 2012, finishing fourth in the constructors’ standings and scoring their first podium finish in over six years.
Despite teams being obliged to race their 2020 machine next season, McLaren will switch out their power unit suppliers from Renault to the all-conquering Mercedes engine.
The move will only add to the positive steps the British outfit has been making in the past few years, and this new chapter in Ricciardo’s storied career will become his best chance to return to the top step of the rostrum.
“Now this move, I feel it gives him great new motivation and hope because McLaren are in a very positive way and moving in the right direction constantly,” said Hakkinen.
“I think that way, he has a new chance there, to prove again that he is a great personality, yes he is a great racing driver, yes he is a great team player.
“They saw he had some great results in the races, but he has a young guy [Lando Norris] who is a very fast young driver and has experience already with the team, so it is not that easy to come there and be number one in the team.”
Ricciardo is set to begin his swansong season with Renault at a revised Austrian Grand Prix on July 5.
Main Image: James Moy Photography