Daniel Ricciardo was nearly 40,000 feet above California when he made the huge decision to leave Red Bull and join Renault for 2019.

The Australian – winner of seven grands prix and arguably the best overtaker in the sport – had been agonising over a decision on his future for months.

He chose a flight to Los Angeles at the start of his mid-season summer break last August to give him the clarity of mind he needed to decide on a move he knew would change his life.

His decision came as a surprise – Renault were often lapped by Red Bull last season, when Ricciardo won two races.

Ricciardo, though, remains confident he knew what he was doing. He was aware then, as now, that he was likely to have to deal with a short-term drop in performance. The switch was about the long-term.

“The dream was getting this team back to winning,” the 29-year-old said at a special event to which BBC Sport was invited at the Renault factory on the eve of the team’s 2019 car launch on Tuesday.

For Renault themselves, signing Ricciardo was a no-brainer. It has sprinkled a little stardust on the team, and made a powerful statement of intent.

His presence has a double benefit – he’s not only one of the best drivers in the sport, he’s also without doubt the funniest; his fluorescent perma-smile and likeable personality make him a ray of human sunshine.

The excitement as Ricciardo addressed the team in the room where the cars are prepared for races was palpable.

“I’m stoked; I really am. I feel part of the team already,” he said at the start of a short but typically disarming and amusing speech, his charisma lighting up the room.

Team boss Cyril Abiteboul says: “It has been a huge boost. It could also be a spark, because I think we have put a lot of right ingredients in three years – people, resources, investment – but at some point you need something to ignite the mixture and that is what I hope is coming from Daniel.”




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