Ricciardo’s glaring Red Bull truth bomb
There was one word which was used above all others at Renault's season launch: momentum. Principally, maintaining the consistent level of championship improvement which has taken the Enstone F1 team from ninth, to sixth and then fourth in the three seasons since the French manufacturer returned to team ownership.
Closing the gap to Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull is the number one target for year four of the project.
"We knew that it would take some time to come back on the podium. We know that we still have a gap with the front runners," said Renault Sport president Jerome Stoll.
"But we are investing massively and for 2019 it's just about keeping the momentum of the improvement. We don't know what's going to be the final position at the end. Fourth is the minimum, but how far from the top teams? As close as possible."
WHERE WILL THE IMPROVEMENT COME FROM?
While 2019's aerodynamic rule changes have naturally been the topic of much focus in the lead up to the new season, engine performance is going to remain a key differentiator for teams.
Renault have lagged behind Mercedes and Ferrari in this regard in the hybrid turbo era, but there was optimism at the launch that a corner may have finally been turned.
"We've had the best winter of the last five years," declared engine chief Remi Taffin.
Team boss Cyril Abiteboul talked about achieving "engine excellence" and revealed fresh investment was being pumped into their engine base in France to create a new dyno and workshop fit for the next decade.
"The engine looks promising in terms of performance," concurred executive director Marcin Budkowski.
WILL RENAULT BE READY FOR TESTING?
The race is on at Renault to deliver the RS19 in time for the first of the two pre-season tests, which starts next week in Barcelona. The car revealed this week carried only a few 2019 parts.
Just moments before the wraps came off what was essentially the 2018 car with a new livery and a 2019 front wing, Abiteboul admitted the RS19 was "in bits" in the factory.
Time is pressing. Budkowski admitted it was "tight" to get the car fit for next week's test while Abiteboul shied away from guaranteeing his team would be ready for Barcelona.
There could be some long nights ahead over the next week at Enstone.
RICCIARDO'S RED BULL TRUTH BOMB
Renault showed off their big new winter signing for the first time and Daniel Ricciardo, sporting his new yellow and black overalls, seemed at home in his new Enstone environment.
He cracked some jokes, spoke optimistically about the future and perhaps gave his clearest explanation yet of that bombshell decision last summer to quit Red Bull for Renault.
"The more I think about it I don't see it too much of a gamble," said Ricciardo. "We're not coming in saying, 'We're going to win' so the expectation and the bar is initially not very high. Whereas at Red Bull every year we built ourselves up, because they'd won in the past, and felt it's going to happen.
"The risk is being let down every year and if I stayed there the risk was it doesn't work again and with Honda maybe that doesn't happen. So the risk of failure is greater than coming here and having the risk of not winning.
"Out of the two options, they both have some risk but with risk comes reward and I feel that because the growth here is potentially a lot bigger, I feel the reward can certainly be bigger here."
Ricciardo said he already felt he was part of a team that wasn't content with just finishing fourth.
"It's certainly not a midfield attitude. It's like, 'Let's attack those top teams,'" he said.
Ricciardo said he wants to prove to people he's still serious about winning a world title even though many wouldn't consider Renault a championship contender.
"There is still a lot in this sport that I have not accomplished that I want. The big one is the world title," he said.
"A lot of people, when I did sign here, were saying, 'Why has he done that?'
"I feel as though maybe not everyone sees it as a serious move so I want to make it work and prove it is serious.
"Sure, it is a bonus to be working at a new factory, but I want to do something with it and show people I am not just taking a backwards step."
The 29-year-old suffered eight retirements in 2018 and while he lost his temper at times, he said his outbursts only show how much he cares about fulfilling his potential.
"It can bring you down, but that is also a sign for me that I f***ing care. I really care, and I want to be successful," Ricciardo said.
"I care because I believe I can do it, so having that feeling for 24 hours is tough, but I always come back out knowing that it is for the right reasons.
"If I am like, 'F*** this s***!' it is not because I really feel that way, but it is like I wish it didn't suck this much, but it is going to make me stronger.
"It is not the most straightforward sport and it has given me a lot of experience in life and I would not change it.
"But, if I was nine again, would I pick up a tennis racquet? Potentially, but it is really because I care."
ANY RED BULL REGRETS?
Ricciardo cut his ties with Red Bull to join Renault and could be forgiven for wanting to get one over his former team, who backed his ex-teammate Max Verstappen with a megabucks deal.
However, Ricciardo said he is not motivated by revenge.
He said: "Honestly, I don't wish anything negative on Red Bull. There is none of that.
"I don't hope that they fail. It is more from a personal point of view: I hope I succeed, and by succeeding is if we can beat Red Bull but it is not just them.
"If we could jump anyone in the top three that would be equally as satisfying."
Ricciardo also said he's not going to measure himself or Renault against what Red Bull achieves this season.
"I was aware when I signed the deal here that it was very realistic that they (Red Bull) are going to be, come Melbourne, they are going to be in front," he said. "So I was already accepting that and coming to terms with that as a very high reality.
"Because now I, in a way, expect it, it is not going to be a shock or anything like that. I think naturally I am going to look at them but I am also going to look at Mercedes and Ferrari as well.
"I am not going to be bitter if they beat us in Melbourne. I feel now we are still on a different journey but I don't want to settle for just fourth forever."
With Ben Hunt, The Sun