Ricciardo as we’ve never seen him before
We knew Daniel Ricciardo looked good in red and navy but he's shown the world he can pull off black and yellow too.
The Aussie F1 star was officially unveiled as a Renault man today when he debuted in the distinct colours of his new team. The French outfit will reveal its new car in a week, before pre-season testing gets underway later this month, but first we got a glimpse of its new-look driver.
Renault released images of Ricciardo looking happy as ever doing his best impression of a bumblebee as he embarks on a new chapter.
The 29-year-old shocked the racing community last year when he decided to quit Red Bull - the team which gave him his chance in the top grade and with whom he has spent his entire F1 career. Until now.
He's joined Renault on a two-year deal and his new employer knows the 29-year-old adds plenty of value away from the track as well as on it. Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul said while his team has the cash to compete with teams like Mercedes and Ferrari, getting close to the top dogs is still years away. But he believes adding Ricciardo to the stable will make Renault a more appealing prospect and make it easier to build up resources quickly.
The West Australian is not just a points-winner on the grid but also a marketing tool that suggests Renault has the potential to be an F1 powerhouse in the future - a future that could arrive sooner than expected now Ricciardo has been recruited.
"I think one thing that Daniel should help us is compress that time, because suddenly everyone is more interested in Renault," Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.
"If I talk about the positions we have available, maybe more engineers or more people will be interested in joining us because we have sent that statement. Daniel is a way to fast-track that scarcest resource we have, which is time."
Abiteboul knows Ricciardo's presence won't mean immediate success. Both parties have been honest about their expectations for the near future - when challenging the likes of Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari is not an option.
Renault hasn't promised Ricciardo anything and he's accepted it's going to be a long slog to reach the F1 summit, but he has given the team confidence to stick to its guns about where it wants to be in a couple of years.
"I don't see us suddenly in a position to fight for wins or fight for the championship. That is not what we have told him, and he has been clear about that too," Abiteboul said.
"Anyone who knows enough about F1 appreciates that the gap we have to the top teams will take some time to be absorbed. Daniel has only increased the chances to stick to the road map which is to fight for wins by 2020."
Ricciardo's arrival at Renault also presents a challenge for his new teammate Nico Hulkenberg. The German has outperformed his colleagues in recent seasons but matching a driver of Ricciardo's class will require him to go up a level - something he's keen to show he can do.
Renault F1 executive Marcin Budkowski said: "For Nico now having Daniel coming with his reputation as a very quick driver, as a very quick racer and overtaker, and proven himself as a race winner, he sees it as an opportunity to prove himself.
"His reaction was not at all unhappy that someone of the calibre of Daniel was coming, he was very happy about it. He feels it's a great opportunity for himself to show what he's capable of.
"We're going to have an interesting interaction there between two drivers who have never been competing against each other in the same team, who are both highly rated.
"But I don't expect that to be a problematic relationship at all. Quite the opposite."
Renault's gain is Red Bull's loss and Ricciardo's shock exit forced the energy drink team to promote Pierre Gasly to the senior team ahead of schedule. Red Bull would have preferred Gasly to continue his development at Toro Rosso in 2019 but he's instead been given a start alongside Max Verstappen on the main team.
The 22-year-old Frenchman, who finished 15th in the drivers' standings last year, is still inexperienced and Red Bull knows it can't expect too much from him too soon.
"It (Gasly's promotion) is faster than we would have originally liked to elevate him into the team, so Max will be very much taking on the role of the experienced senior driver and Pierre is going to have to go up against a very competitive teammate," Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Motorsport.com.
"It is not going to be easy. Of course it is not. But he knows what is expected of him."
However, Horner alluded to the reduction in team friction that would arise as a result of there being a clear distinction between the No. 1 and No. 2 drivers in the garage. While Ricciardo and Verstappen were widely regarded as the most talented pairing on the grid, there was often tension as they sometimes hurt each others' chances when pushing for race wins.
"For the team, it is a far easier scenario than it has been in previous years where we have got a clear difference between the experience in the two drivers and the expectations," Horner said.