PARIS (Reuters) – Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault team mates had better beware: The Australian is planning to take them out of their comfort zone and make them sweat as he chases a return to the Formula One podium.

The cheerful Australian joined for 2019 from Red Bull, where he had been a race winner, and immediately noticed a difference.

Renault, champions in a previous existence but yet to feature on the podium since they returned as a factory team in 2016, have expanded rapidly as they seek to return to the top.

Getting everyone to gel remains a work in progress, however.

“When I first came into the team last year I did feel the garage was a little… it wasn’t as close as what I felt Red Bull had,” Ricciardo told Reuters at the team’s season launch in Paris on Wednesday.

“I think it improved through the year but there’s still some room to go.”

As a result, Ricciardo reckons on doing “some team building stuff” away from the track “to give us some tasks together that aren’t just ‘make my car quicker’ or ‘fix the front wing’. To just work together on non-F1 tasks.

“I think that’s going to do wonders for us as a unit,” he said.

“We’re going to make a few people sweat as well and get them out of their limits and get them to reinsert some self-belief in themselves and get them to do something maybe they didn’t think they could do.”

Renault dropped from fourth to fifth overall last season, a blow for a manufacturer targeting a return to the top three.

The team have expanded from around 600 people to some 1,200 in the past three or four years and Renault F1 Principal Cyril Abiteboul said it took time to integrate so many fresh faces.

Renault also have a changed driver line-up, with hungry young Frenchman Esteban Ocon replacing experienced German Nico Hulkenberg.

“Frankly, in my opinion there is no-one better than Daniel to bring everyone together and to bring this sort of positive energy,” said Abiteboul of a driver renowned for his smile.

“That’s why I am pushing him to talk about that – but not just talk, act.”

Ricciardo said he had learnt a lot last year and wanted to move on to the next stage.

“I feel a lot more confident and comfortable to act on more of these understandings and some ways to bring the team closer together,” he said.

“I’m confident that in the second year now we can do more with this… Just me being in the sport for longer, starting to understand what works and maybe what doesn’t – these are some things I’m obviously looking to explore.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

All copyrights for this article are reserved to The Star