Autosport (UK) - - PIT + PADDOCK/LETTERS -

LAST SEA­SON’S OUT­STAND­ING DRIVER strug­gled to reach the same heights this year, mainly be­cause of the leap for­ward

Max Ver­stap­pen made on the other side of the Red Bull garage. Ric­cia­rdo is the same su­per-smooth, fast and classy racer of re­cent sea­sons, it’s just that Ver­stap­pen’s su­perla­tive form made it tougher for him to stand out.

When­ever the RB13 was a bit loose, Ric­cia­rdo looked less com­fort­able than his team-mate, and there were a cou­ple of un­char­ac­ter­is­tic slumps and er­rors. When the car be­came a gen­uine vic­tory con­tender at cer­tain cir­cuits dur­ing the fi­nal part of the year, it was Ver­stap­pen and not Ric­cia­rdo do­ing the win­ning.

There were still some bril­liant per­for­mances: hold­ing off Hamil­ton to fin­ish on the podium in Aus­tria; burns from the stern at Sil­ver­stone and Monza (in­clud­ing a trade­mark lunge pass on Kimi Raikko­nen); and a bril­liant week­end be­fore the car broke in Abu Dhabi.

But al­though Ric­cia­rdo scored more podi­ums in one sea­son than ever be­fore, and fin­ished fourth in the cham­pi­onship, he was definitively the sec­ond-best driver at Red Bull this year, which is a new ex­pe­ri­ence for him.

Ric­cia­rdo re­mains one of the best on the grid, but now he is dis­cov­er­ing what it’s like to ex­ist in Ver­stap­pen’s shadow. Find­ing a way to emerge from it will be his next big test.

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