Daniel Ricciardo will still have a fight on his hands at Renault.
Daniel Ricciardo will still have a fight on his hands at Renault.

Ricciardo receives frosty Renault welcome

Daniel Ricciardo will be hoping for less tension in the air when he leaves a Red Bull garage with Max Verstappen in it, but his future teammate isn't going to let the Australian waltz in and hog all the glory.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg will pair up with Ricciardo in 2019 when he joins the French F1 outfit on a two-year deal but has revealed he's not prepared to play second fiddle to the high-profile 29-year-old.

When Ricciardo announced his shock decision to quit Red Bull, many speculated his decision was at least partly because the energy drink team favoured Verstappen and was going to give him more support in a push for a world championship.

That the young Dutchman was getting paid more than his more senior comrade added to the theory and it was suggested Ricciardo, who wants a championship as soon as possible, wasn't prepared to be the team's No. 2 if it meant his title aspirations being compromised.

But Hulkenberg - seventh in the drivers' standings, one place below Ricciardo and five spots above Renault's other driver Carlos Sainz with one race left in the season - has laid down a challenge to his incoming teammate, warning he won't be letting Ricciardo run over the top of him.

"Daniel has won several grands prix. He is fast and motivated. I have to do my homework, be fast and consistent," Hulkenberg said.

"In that case I have always beaten my teammates."

Hulkenberg may be more bluster than substance, given just last year he was outpointed by Sainz in the drivers' standings, and in 2016 when he was with Force India, he finished below Sergio Perez.

Renault said recently it has been making good progress on its 2019 chassis but Hulkenberg admitted the engine superiority of top teams Ferrari and Mercedes give them a "lot more power in qualifying".

"They have understood something that we are yet to understand. And we have to discover this mystery," he said.

Ricciardo wants to be top dog.
Ricciardo wants to be top dog.

 

Hulkenberg may be confident about always one-upping his teammates - even if his recent record doesn't back him up - but Ricciardo is different to anyone he's partnered before.

F1 legend David Coulthard says the West Australian deserves to be ranked in the top echelon of drivers alongside Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, and said Renault's decision to invest in top talent is another sign the team is determined to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari in the long run.

"It's a works team and they really invest," Coulthard said. "The fact that they've signed Daniel proves that. That was no bargain and it's a sign of what Renault's intentions are.

"People write them off but something could happen.

"If you're producing a movie, the key to success is picking the right actor for the right part.

"Here, you have Lewis Hamilton as the superstar, Max with his attacking driving style and Sebastian Vettel with his German winning mentality. Ricciardo belongs in that bracket.

"The fact that in years past someone like Fernando Alonso hasn't been able to be the protagonist in a non-competitive car is bad for the sport, but it'll be better for Daniel at Renault."