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McLaren Podium at Monza - Ricciardo and Brown
MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 12: Race winner Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and McLaren F1 and McLaren Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 12, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Zak Brown “hated” axing Ricciardo but denies blindsiding F1 star

F1 fan favourite Daniel Ricciardo didn't know that he was being replaced by a younger Aussie Oscar Piastri at McLaren

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Mclaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has opened up on “the toughest” decision in motorsport he’s ever made, after sacking eight-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo. 

Daniel Ricciardo with Andreas Seidl and Lando Norris with McLaren
Ricciardo joined McLaren from Renault in 2021, replacing the Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz and partnering with Lando Norris. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

In an exclusive interview with Kayo Sports, Brown opened up on McLaren’s failed partnership with Ricciardo, who is now set to miss out on a race seat for 2023, with an eye out for a spot on the grid for 2024.

Brown admits to having “hated” making the choice to replace the 33-year-old Aussie with 21-year-old Oscar Piastri but denies blindsiding Ricciardo, claiming to have been “transparent through the whole process”.

“Ultimately we weren’t getting the results that we needed and we’re a year-and-a-half into this,” Brown said.

We’ve all tried extremely hard, we love Daniel, he’s great to work with and continues to be great to work with.”

“But we’re in the results business and the results weren’t coming and we felt we tried everything.

“We don’t really know why it didn’t click, it’s kind of nobody’s fault. We gave it our best. He gave it his best … we just kind of ran out of things to try.

“Sometimes athletes go into slumps or need a change of environment.”

Another Danny Ric fan

Brown explained why the decision was so tough for him to, pointing back to 2019 and claiming McLaren tried to snap up the Aussie once the news broke that he would be leaving Red Bull. When asked about how disappointing it’s been to not see Ricciardo thrive at McLaren, Brown said: “I’ve hated it.

“I tried to get Daniel before he went to Renault, so this was years in the making. I’m a huge Daniel fan. I’m still a huge Daniel fan and that’ll never change.

“I asked him if he wanted to drive for us in the IndyCar or Formula E… I’d love to keep Daniel in the family but he’s still very focused on Formula One, which I get, it’s the pinnacle of motorsports. I’d love to race with him again.

“It’s probably the toughest thing I’ve had in my time in motorsports, it wasn’t pleasant, not fun.

“But my job, along with (team principal) Andreas (Seidl), is to make the tough decisions and because we didn’t really see progress happening, it was like, ‘Well I think we just need to make a change for both of our sakes and hopefully get him in the situation where he can be competitive again and in a Formula One car wherever he ends up racing’, but (it’s been) a huge disappointment.”

Daniel Ricciardo from McLaren
Daniel Ricciardo wasn’t in the loop whilst McLaren were chasing Oscar Piastri. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/Getty Images)
Not adding up

McLaren lodged paperwork to the FIA’s contract recognition board on July 4th amidst a dispute with Alpine. Despite claiming “full transparency”, Ricciardo was not told that he would be axed until the 31st of July, after the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Weeks later, Ricciardo revealed that he was unaware that McLaren had signed Piastri before the mid-season break.

“To be honest, on the date, that’s the first I’ve heard,” Brown told Sky Sports at the time.

“I’m not aware of obvious timelines and this and that, what the team’s discussing.

“We were transparent through the whole process and I know there had been tonnes of media speculation when it happened, how it happened.

“Daniel and I know what really happened and I think that’s why we still very much have a strong relationship.

“It was all transparent, well-communicated and there’s times we can tell people what’s going on and then there’s other times we just can’t.”

He added: “What’s most important to me is that when Daniel and I see each other, we give each other a big hug and we’ve got five races to go and we’re going to give it all we’ve got.”

Despite the media drama, Brown believes that Ricciardo has been a “total professional” throughout the ‘Piasco’.

I’ve got nothing but great things to say about Daniel in the way he has handled himself, put himself out there,” Brown said.

“I think we’ve owned it together, he is a great individual.”

With only four races to go, Ricciardo will be looking to prove himself on track, to show that he’s still got it. Unfortunately for Formula 1 fans, the bubbly Australian most likely won’t feature on the grid until 2024.

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