McLaren F1 Team technical director James Key says the ‘determined’ Daniel Ricciardo can fill the ‘gap’ Carlos Sainz Jr. has left.
After two impressive years at the British team, which saw the Spaniard finish sixth twice in the Drivers’ standings and included two podiums, Sainz has made the move to Scuderia Ferrari to replace four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Sainz has left somewhat of a void at McLaren, both on and off the track but one that the team feel can be filled perfectly by the arrival of Ricciardo. Key, who has previously worked with Ricciardo during his time with Scuderia Toro Rosso, believes that Ricciardo is definitely the right driver to take McLaren forward.
Key, speaking on the F1 Nation Podcast knows that Sainz has left a gap within the team, but having previous experience working with Ricciardo, knows he is ‘the right man for the job’ :
“It’s great to have Dan on board, and having worked with him in the past, I know he’ll bring new and different opinions and ways of working to the team, which will be welcome,” said Key. “So there’s a gap to fill, but we’ve got a great guy to fill it.”
Key thinks that Ricciardo’s notoriously upbeat character will be a lift to those working at the factory, but he also admires his seriousness on track.
“He’ll bring great experience. He’ll bring a lighter, sort of jovial touch as well in some cases. He’s a great character out of the car as well as in, but he’ll bring a great deal of experience and a huge amount of determination.
I think what always impressed me with Daniel is this massive amount of determination he has, particularly when he’s driving; you can really feel and see that. You listen to his radio messages when he’s driving, and he’s a very different character to when he’s out of the car and relaxed.”
Having a proven race winner can only be of benefit to a team that has previously lacked this experience and Key recognises this.
“He’s incredibly determined when he’s racing, and I think that, with his experience and his confidence and what he can do, now that he’s a genuine well-established race winner – I think all of that will bring good confidence to the team, and a slightly different kind of aspect to how we see certain things with the car technically as well. He’ll bring good knowledge in for that.”