Ricciardo 'had to leave' Renault, felt McLaren 'in a better place' to win

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Daniel Ricciardo believed he "had to leave" Renault after just one year, claiming McLaren was "in a better place" to win.

The fifth episode of Netflix's Drive to Survive docuseries looked back on the events of last May when in just a few days, Ferrari announced Sebastian Vettel's exit with McLaren confirming the Australian would replace Carlos Sainz, who was then revealed by the Scuderia minutes later.

Ricciardo's decision to sign at McLaren surprised some as it came following just one season at Renault, whom he joined from Red Bull at the start of 2019.

But in the episode, he would explain why he chose to leave so soon.

“Can I win with all cars finishing? It still hurts to say this [but] the reality is no," he said. “Deep down I knew I had to leave [Renault].

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“I did take my age into account," he added. "I’m 31. I can’t afford to chance any more seasons. I just felt McLaren was in a better place than Renault was and that’s what drove me to that decision."

Ricciardo though does acknowledge informing Renault of his departure was a very hard moment in his career.

“Telling Renault that I was going to leave before we’d even done a race last year was tricky,” he told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

“It wasn’t easy telling them I was out, but this is a sport where you have to look out for yourself first and foremost. I felt McLaren was going to give me a better opportunity in the years ahead, simple as that."

His decision though didn't sit well with then-Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul.

“Frankly, I think he’s making a mistake," he told the documentary makers. "What’s hurting the most is it’s not the long-term project I thought we signed up for.

Abite Ric

“The drivers with the biggest results, biggest success have also been the ones that have been able to take the time and bring stability in their own life, in their own career.

“I am in the process of rebuilding my relationship with him, even though I have full confidence he will regret his decision."

Eventually, the situation between Ricciardo & Abiteboul did improve, with the Australian going on to claim two podiums en route to fifth in the Drivers' Championship.

“One thing I must say, watching Daniel right now, it’s something that’s making me feel the frustration and disappointment," Cyril, who has since left F1, said at the time.

“Not just for what we have achieved so far together but also for what he would achieve after that. But he decided to make the decision when he decided to make it with just one year together in such a short horizon of time."

At McLaren though, Ricciardo hopes he can achieve what he felt he couldn't at Renault.

“With the Mercedes dominance it would be easy to get frustrated and bitter towards that success, but I try not to be that person,” he told The Guardian.

“If anything, I take my hat off. They are doing a good job and we have to just find a way to match them, that’s a motivation.

“I was about to say it’s not rocket science but it kind of is rocket science,” he added.

“Maybe if I don’t have the best car on the grid, what if I did win a race? How much more currency and respect would that get? There’s always a good underdog story waiting to be written. One I hope to write.”