Ricciardo himself then verified that later on, revealing he had a good connection with McLaren in talks but admitting he felt it would take too long for it to return to competitiveness. That was understandable, given he made the decision to head to Enstone in a season Renault finished fourth in the constructors’ championship and McLaren sixth, but often had the slowest car late in the year.
But 12 months at Renault appear to have told Ricciardo enough. While McLaren bounced back impressively – as a Renault customer don’t forget – to finish a very strong fourth in the standings last year, the works team took a backward step.
And after seeing pre-season form, with new attachments and relationships at Renault, and with so much uncertainty right now, that Ricciardo still opted to move to McLaren speaks volumes about his confidence in the French manufacturer’s potential.
But another reason it might sting so much is that Ricciardo’s move is straight out of the Renault playbook.
Renault has not exactly shown loyalty towards its drivers since returning to Formula 1 as a constructor in 2016. Kevin Magnussen was left unhappy at a lack of commitment and so moved to Haas in 2017. With Carlos Sainz signed for 2018, Jolyon Palmer was then replaced before the previous season was out, but Sainz himself only lasted a season before Renault grabbed Ricciardo (and at the same time went back on an agreement to sign Esteban Ocon, leaving the Frenchman without a drive last year).