McLaren technical director James Key has admitted that Carlos Sainz’s departure from McLaren has left a sizeable “gap”, but is confident that Daniel Ricciardo can fill that space very well.
Sainz spent two successful years with the Woking-based squad; the Spaniard secured two podium finishes, worked well with teammate Lando Norris and helped McLaren to reach third place in the 2020 constructors’ standings. Now Ricciardo will step into his seat following Sainz’s move to Ferrari and Key thinks the Australian is the ideal replacement.
“It will leave a gap,” Key told Formula 1 podcast F1 Nation when asked about the impact of Sainz’s departure. “But his replacement will fill [the gap] very well.
“It’s great to have Dan on board, and having worked with him… in the past, I know he’ll bring new and different opinions and ways of working to the team, which will be welcome. So there’s a gap to fill, but we’ve got a great guy to fill it.”
Key - who previously worked with Ricciardo at Toro Rosso - believes the Australian's vast amount of experience will be beneficial to McLaren, as well as his famous sense of humour and light-hearted personality.
“He’ll bring great experience,” said Key. “He’ll bring a lighter, sort of jovial touch as well in some cases. He’s a great character out of the car as well as in, but he’ll bring a great deal of experience and a huge amount of determination.”
Key also cites Ricciardo’s focus behind the wheel and technical knowledge as skills that will help the team.
“I think what always impressed me with Daniel is this massive amount of determination he has, particularly when he’s driving; you can really feel and see that," Key continued. "You listen to his radio messages when he’s driving, and he’s a very different character to when he’s out of the car and relaxed.
“He’s incredibly determined when he’s racing, and I think that, with his experience and his confidence and what he can do, now that he’s a genuine well-established race winner – I think all of that will bring good confidence to the team, and a slightly different kind of aspect to how we see certain things with the car technically as well. He’ll bring good knowledge in for that.”
Ricciardo joins McLaren following two years at Renault and will line up alongside Norris, who enters into his third season with the Woking team.