Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has urged Lewis Hamilton not to underestimate Daniel Ricciardo, after the world champion did not include the Aussie on a list of top drivers. Quoted for Motor Sport magazine, Hamilton argued that himself, Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso were the four strongest drivers of the season.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, Horner disputed that Ricciardo’s omission was a mistake, claiming, “Lewis would be very foolish to underestimate Daniel. He’s a phenomenal driver, he’s arguably the best overtaker in the business. He’s driven some great races this year and some great races in his time at Red Bull. He’s absolutely ready for a championship challenge if we can provide him with the tools to do the job.”
This comes as Daniel has emerged as an increasingly credible contender to partner Hamilton at Mercedes in 2019, with contact between the parties being reported as early as mid-season. Ricciardo finished ahead of team-mate Verstappen in the standings in 2017, however, suffered a bruising 13-7 defeat to the young Dutchman on Saturdays – a surprise for a man with an eminent reputation for single-lap pace. The Aussie also finished ahead of Verstappen on just two occasions; however, there were only seven races when both Red Bulls would greet the flag.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, Horner emphasised how severely unreliability had compromised Red Bull’s season.“If you look at the number of points we have given away through unreliability, it’s close to 160. Engine reliability has hit us really hard. At the beginning of the year we undelivered on the chassis, we didn’t hit the ground running.
“We understood those problems quickly and moved to address them quickly. I’m really excited that we’ve got the strongest driver pairing in Formula 1,” Horner added. “Max and Daniel, they push each other to such high limits and that’s tremendously exciting for us.”