By Marcelo Teixeira
SAOPAULO (Reuters) – Daniel Ricciardo is missing the taste of post-race champagne, whether supped from a sweaty boot or not, and has made a return to the Formula One podium with Renault his main aim for 2020.
The Australian switched from Red Bull at the end of last year and has yet to finish higher than fourth for the French team.
With Red Bull, he won seven races and was famed for the podium “Shoey” — taking off a racing shoe and challenging others to follow his example and quaff the fizz from it.
“Champagne,” he grinned when asked at the Brazilian Grand Prix, penultimate race of the season, on Thursday about his target for 2020.
“When I signed with the team, 2020 was the target to finish on the podium at least once…We’re still a little bit away from that.
“I think with a strong off-season it’s not impossible for us to have a chance to fight for that next year. Ultimately, whether it’s champagne or not, we want to get closer to the top three and be in the fight with those three teams more consistently next year.”
Ricciardo said he knew it was going to be a tough year for former champions Renault after they finished fourth overall in 2018.
Renault are currently fifth and 38 points behind once-dominant McLaren, who also use the French company’s engines and have made big progress this year, in fourth.
They also have Mercedes-powered Racing Point only 18 points behind in sixth place, with Toro Rosso a point behind, and cannot rest easy.
“I knew all this was going to come but I was very open-minded for the season, I was firstly excited to have a fresh start and a change,” said Ricciardo.
“I didn’t really expect the world from this first season. I knew it would take time to get the team to where we want it to go. I think the second half of the season we’ve had a bit more consistency, that’s been more positive.”
The Australian said next year, the last before a radical overhaul of the sport, looked better.
“I’ll start to expect more not only from myself but the team come 2020. I think we’ve learnt a lot and personally I have,” he said.
“The results haven’t always been what we wanted but I definitely don’t see it being a year to forget or anything like that. Far from it.”
(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)