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Ex-F1 champions suggest Ricciardo’s time could be up

Could the Australian’s mighty F1 career be coming to an end?

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After failing to score points for a fourth consecutive race, Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve commented on Ricciardo’s 2022 performances.

Where Monaco had once been a circuit of beautiful memories for the McLaren driver, the last two races there have seen it become a painful experience.

Ricciardo crashed out of FP2 in Monaco (Photo by Hasan Bratic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Daniel Ricciardo took a glorious win at the historic venue back in 2018, but could only manage 13th place last weekend. He suffered a high-speed crash in practice on Friday before struggling with race pace. His teammate finished in sixth, 45 seconds ahead of him. 

Now in his second season for the British team, it’s getting more and more difficult to excuse the Aussie’s performances. Everyone had to adapt to the new regulations, but when Lando Norris is 37 points ahead, there must be greater issues than merely adjusting to the car. 

Button’s assessment of Ricciardo’s performance

In a controversial move, McLaren CEO Zak Brown publicly expressed his disappointment in the eight-time race winner last week.

“Short of Monza and a few races, it’s generally not kind of met his or our expectations,” Brown told Sky Sports.

“I think all you can do is keep working hard as a team, keep communications going, keep pushing and hope whatever’s not kind of clicking at the moment clicks here shortly.”

Ricciardo jokingly responded that his ‘skin is tanned, beautiful and also thick’, stating that Brown’s comments were true in the Monaco press conference.

Whilst he seemed to brush off the criticism, 2009 world champion Jenson Button approached the situation more seriously.

He spoke about how important your mentality is in Formula 1 before saying:

If your head’s not in the right place, you don’t perform. So I was surprised that Zak [Brown] came out and said he’s not meeting our expectations. We all know that, but when your team principal comes out and says that, it definitely hurts.”

Button went on to share his sympathy for the ‘tricky situation’, but confirmed that there would naturally be clauses in Ricciardo’s contract.

This follows recent speculation that his deal with McLaren, which is set to end in 2023, could be cut short.

Villeneuve’s harsher judgement

It’s not a surprise that the 1997 champion has his own opinion. Jacques Villeneuve has become known for his sometimes brutal comments on drivers.

Sharing his insights in a column for Formula1.nl, he wrote frankly: “Daniel Ricciardo’s time at McLaren is over.

“CEO Zak Brown is now saying that there are clauses in his contract, and that means that a decision has almost been made. It’s a way to put the pressure on the driver and prepare the media.”

How much time should Zak Brown wait for Ricciardo to start performing consistently? (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Villeneuve took a more ruthless stance than Button, claiming that any decisions regarding Ricciardo’s career at McLaren ultimately come down to money.

“He doesn’t bring in any points and he doesn’t have the speed the team needs to develop the car,” he wrote. “So he’s just costing them money. It would be cheaper for them to continue paying Ricciardo’s salary, let him sit on the couch at home, and put another driver in the car. It’s a harsh reality, but that’s Formula 1.”

What could Ricciardo’s future look like?

The 32-year-old’s performances currently pale in comparison to teammate Lando Norris.

McLaren likely hoped to use the new regulations to their advantage. Unfortunately, that dream of being the best of the rest quickly fades when your drivers are performing so differently.

No one can truly predict whether the team would actually activate these ‘mechanisms’ to cut Ricciardo’s contract short.

However, they would certainly have a range of racers ready to take his place.

There has been much talk surrounding IndyCar’s Colton Herta, who will test the team’s 2021 car this season. Having an American driver would certainly strengthen both McLaren and F1’s US connections.

Alpine are also actively trying to secure a 2023 seat for young talent Oscar Piastri. The French team offered his services to McLaren back in March when Ricciardo had Covid-19, and the 2021 F2 champion is now an official reserve driver for both teams.

Could this relationship grow into a potential deal? Only time will tell.

For now, all fans can do is hope that Daniel Ricciardo finds a way to feel comfortable in the MCL36. With 15 races still remaining, there are plenty of opportunities for the honey badger to make his mark. 

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images

  1. For now, I’m sure he’ll get to see out his 3-year deal, but things could change at this rate if he keeps on underperforming.
    Should Mclaren terminate his existing contract prematurely, I view Gasly as a possible replacement option in a given scenario & also Pato.
    Herta less so, & Piastri even less than him.
    We’ll see. Ricciardo still has time for improvement.

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