Daniel Ricciardo believes that the gulf between himself and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team-mate Max Verstappen in qualifying and race conditions failed to show the “true picture” of the 2018 season.
Ricciardo suffered a dismal record with reliability that contributed to a lowly sixth place in the Drivers’ Championship, 79 points behind fourth-placed Verstappen, despite taking two wins at China and Monaco in the first half of the year. Additionally, Verstappen outqualified Ricciardo 11 times in succession between Canada and Japan with an average gap of 0.145s over the season.
The Australian retired from eight out of the 21 Grands Prix, his frustration culminating in a move to the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team for 2019.
However Ricciardo insisted that he was happy with his performance through the year.
“I am happy with how I’ve been this year and I certainly feel that the points and the qualifying tally don’t show the true picture,” he told Motorsport.com.
“I don’t want to take the credit away from Max because he is getting better every year and he’s a top-level driver. There is no doubt that he is extremely fast and he’s not easy to beat on any day.”
The 29-year-old ceded that there were days where Verstappen was the quicker driver, but countered by noting that “issues” have hampered his progress on Saturdays.
“Even on those days where he has outqualified me, I’ve still been comfortable with that and most of the time I’ve understood why,” he continued.
“Sometimes I’ve taken my hat off and said that it was just a bloody good lap, but there have been other times, where there have been some issues and I’ve had some little things which haven’t quite gone my way.”
After an incident-riddled start to the season, Verstappen altered his approach to a more calculated one and finished the season by outscoring every driver bar world champion Lewis Hamilton in the final nine races of the year. Meanwhile Ricciardo could only manage 48 points after the summer break and failed to reach the podium in races that he did not win.
His best chance of victory in the late stages of the season was in Mexico. Starting from pole, Ricciardo suffered with ongoing engine issues and was forced into retirement on lap 61 as Verstappen eased to victory.
“Long story short, I’m still comfortable with the year I’ve had,” Ricciardo added.
“Even where I haven’t performed maybe as well as I would have liked, if there wasn’t a reason for it, I’ve been able to understand it. And if I don’t know why, I’ve been able to figure it out and move on.
“I’m happier than what the statistics show, let’s say that!”