Daniel Ricciardo has heaped praise on six-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, admitting he doesn’t know if he could consistently achieve what the Briton has, even if he had the same machinery to hand.
Hamilton heads into 2020 with Michael Schumacher’s record seven drivers’ titles in his sight, a feat no other driver has come close to since the late Juan Manuel Fangio, who at the time held a record five titles before Schumacher surpassed his tally – a tally nobody expected would ever be matched.
But Hamilton’s consistency and drive has kept him at the top of his game since he entered the sport back in 2007, missing out on the title in his rookie campaign by a single point before taking his first in just his second year.
To stay on that level is an achievement that demands respect no matter the machinery at his disposal, according to Ricciardo, who, although certain he could match and beat Hamilton, is unsure whether he could sustain that level for so long.
“What separates that little group [of top drivers], beyond the car, is the mental and physical ability to deal with everything this sport throws at you, week in, week out,” the Australian told Autocar.
“It’s the days when your health isn’t so good, or you’re feeling a bit jet-lagged, or you’ve just had a bad week. If you can still get in the car and deliver on them, then you can be champion.
“The point with Lewis – the point that makes him special – is that he has done that six times.
“Even if you argue he’s had the best equipment, that achievement is remarkable. To stay on himself year after year, to keep pushing himself, to take on the pressure of being the one we’re all hunting: that’s remarkable.
“For all my confidence – and I’m certain I could win a title against him – could I battle and beat him year after year? I don’t know. It’s some achievement, and it warrants respect.”
Unlike Hamilton, Ricciardo heads into ’20 with little chance of victory in what will be an unusual year for the 30-year-old. He will race for Renault in the knowledge this will be his final season with the team after signing a deal to join McLaren in ’21.