Open criticism from the team, lack of clarity about his contract, poor performance; Daniel Ricciardo is definitely not in the best phase of his Formula 1 career. The question therefore arises how long it will continue. The net is closing around the roguish Australian.
As a personality, Ricciardo is a perfect match for McLaren, a team with a fresh look, bright colors and no longer the stiffness that has weighed on it for years with Ron Dennis at the helm. Zak Brown is a pure enthusiast, a smart businessman and as a person the opposite of Dennis. It character Ricciardo – always with a smile yet fast – was exactly what the American was looking for.
A year and a half later, things are very different. Ricciardo was brought to the team as captain, but it is precisely the top talent Lando Norris who is leading the charge. Since the arrival of his experienced team-mate, the young Briton has become a bit more serious. After two seasons of slapstick with Carlos Sainz, Norris really had to get to work. And he did, also because Ricciardo ultimately underperforms his Spanish predecessor.
Fans were no doubt looking forward to the driver duo Ricciardo and Norris, which on paper seemed to be a guarantee of chemistry and humor. That largely failed to materialize. Norris made mincemeat of the reputation of his Australian teammate. The numbers clearly show that.
World Cup points since 2021
- Lando Norris: 208 points
- Daniel Ricciardo: 126 points
Mutual duel in qualifications since 2021
- Lando Norris: 21
- Daniel Ricciardo: 8
Norris ends Ricciardo career
Ricciardo is not the replacement for Sainz that McLaren needed. In a season where the team is already struggling, Norris is the only iron in the fire. That’s why the grumbling begins. Both Brown and team principal Andreas Seidl recently said unequivocally that Ricciardo is not living up to expectations. To make matters worse, Ricciardo himself recently sowed uncertainty about his contract, which he himself does not seem to know when it will expire.
Former world champion Damon Hill said in the official Formula 1 podcast this week that “Norris has ended his teammate’s career”. That seems harsh, but if Ricciardo doesn’t perform very quickly, it is reality.
McLaren is swimming in the options. The team now has its own IndyCar team, in which it has a top talent behind the wheel with Pato O’Ward. The Mexican was already allowed to test for the Formula 1 team. But the biggest name in IndyCar is Colton Herta, the 22-year-old American who may also try it in a McLaren in the foreseeable future. They are all talents and potential regular drivers, but not proven strengths.
Lando Norris, nowadays a bit more serious and above all faster than team mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Gasly and McLaren can help each other
That applies to Pierre Gasly, who has come to a dead end within Red Bull. Sergio Pérez will remain Max Verstappen’s teammate for more than two years. The first seat at AlphaTauri remains reserved for the Frenchman, but he undoubtedly has bigger ambitions. Gasly’s contract runs through 2023, coincidentally as long as Ricciardo’s. But if McLaren wants to do business sooner, there is certainly room for discussion.
The 26-year-old Gasly failed once at Red Bull, but has since more than established himself. The Frenchman simply couldn’t handle the difficult car, which was fully adjusted to Verstappen’s driving style. The fact that Alexander Albon and even Pérez ran into the same problems afterwards puts Gasly’s performance with the team better in perspective. Back at the sister team, the driver from Rouen again showed that he could really steer.
Pierre Gasly is an important potential replacement for Ricciardo.
Ricciardo also knows that the end of Formula 1 career is imminent
Ricciardo sees the necessary privateers on the coast. And there is really no real reason to think that things will get better any time soon. During the Monaco Grand Prix it turned out once again that the eight-time Grand Prix winner lost a lot of time compared to Norris in certain corners. The Englishman does something with the McLaren that Ricciardo cannot grasp. He does not get any further than reporting that he “doesn’t feel 100 percent in the car yet” – sounds that could already be heard last year.
In addition to the won Grand Prix of Italy, Norris had his teammate largely under his thumb in 2021. Last year’s and this season’s cars are completely different, so that’s no excuse for Ricciardo to hide behind. His poor performance is the only constant.
If this does not change, then Ricciardo himself knows that the end of the story is in the sport. No Formula 1 team is interested in a slightly older driver who has not performed for a long time. There is plenty of new talent on the market. It offers the driver from Perth a great opportunity to try his other great love: Ricciardo was already a good fit for McLaren, but the raw and less serious NASCAR is completely tailor-made for the American fan.
Timetable Azerbaijan Grand Prix
- First free practice: Friday 1 p.m.
- Second free practice: Friday 4 pm
- Third free practice: Saturday 1 p.m.
- Qualification: Saturday 4 p.m.
- Race: Sunday 1 p.m.
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