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Ricciardo: Bianchi would have been on Leclerc's level

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Daniel Ricciardo thinks the late Jules Bianchi would have been at a similar level to Ferrari's Charles Leclerc right now.

Bianchi died in 2015 from injuries he suffered at the previous year's Japanese Grand Prix. The Frenchman, who was Leclerc's godfather, seemed set for a move to Ferrari after an impressive campaign with backmarkers Marussia, which included scoring the team's first points at the Monaco Grand Prix.

In the years since, Leclerc has risen through the ranks in spectacular fashion, claiming the 2017 Formula 2 title in record-breaking fashion and claiming three victories in his first season at Ferrari last year.

In a new series of posts to Twitter named "Dan's Diary," Ricciardo named Bianchi as one of his five most underrated drivers, although he clarified that is an unfair label.

"It wasn't like Jules was underrated, but we never got to see him in a top car, so maybe people didn't appreciate how good he was going to be," the Australian wrote. "You think of his drive in that Marussia in Monaco in 2014, the team's first points.

"Monaco is like Macau in that there's no way to fluke a result there. It was absolutely on merit."

Ricciardo and Bianchi trained together in karting in Italy before making it to F1. In his post, Ricciardo said that even then "Jules was the guy"

Ricciardo went on to write: "It's another part of what makes his story so sad, because [Bianchi] would have been in a top team and a race winner by now for sure. In some ways, I feel Charles is doing now what Jules would have been doing.

"It's like Charles is the delayed version of what Jules would have done with the success he's having."

The other drivers Ricciardo named in his post were Marcus Ericsson, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Roberto Merhi and 2009 world champion Jenson Button.

On Wednesday, the Renault team confirmed Ricciardo had taken a pay cut to help ease the financial burden during the coronavirus pandemic. F1's season has been suspended until July at the earliest, with the first 10 races not taking place on their scheduled dates.