That’s the belief of Sky Sports F1 expert David Croft.
Ricciardo swapped Red Bull for Renault at the end of last season having been affiliated with the Austrian energy drinks company since joining their youth driver ranks a decade earlier.
The Australian has suggested he did not feel the love and appreciation he was seeking at the team.
As a result, he left to sign a bumper deal with Renault that makes him the third-highest paid driver on the grid.
Ricciardo has openly acknowledged that Renault will not challenging for race wins, or even podium finishes, this season.
But the 29-year-old racer is confident in the long-term project that the Oxfordshire-based outfit have in motion.
Former Red Bull team-mate Verstappen joked to Sky Sports ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix that his personal ambition for the season is to lap his old team-mate.
And Ricciardo, responding to his comments, joked back that he will pretend not to have seen the blue flags from the stewards if told to let the Dutchman pass him.
Yet Croft thinks Ricciardo’s trademark smile would soon desert him if he was lapped by Verstappen.
Croft told Sky Sports: “If we believe Daniel Ricciardo that he needed a change, he wanted to be free, he wanted to break from the Red Bull shackles as it were – this a season he can go out and be his own man again.
“I think he’s come to terms with the decision now and he’s calm and he’s relaxed about it.
“He knows he’s not going to be fighting for race wins and more often than not he’s not going to be fighting for podiums either.
“But he’s happy with the decision he’s made as we sit here.
“Give it five or six races and give it the first time that Max Verstappen does lap him – then I think it changes again.
“He is still a winner. Behind that beaming smile beats the heart of a fiery racer who wants to go out and win.
“He believes in Renault’s vision for the future, but he’s going to have to be patient and that’s the key word for Ricciardo this year: patience.”