Formula 1 driver turned commentator Martin Brundle believes Daniel Ricciardo is a better driver than his recent results have shown, but something must be given for 2023.
The Australian has come under pressure in recent races as he continues to be overshadowed by his McLaren teammate, Lando Norris.
After a tough campaign in 2021 as he struggled to adapt to the MCL35M, he hoped a fresh start, given to drivers by the new regulations, would bring him back into balance.
However, in the seven races so far in 2022, Ricciardo has only finished ahead of Norris once when the pair have both seen the checkered flag.
“It’s not going well, and as Daniel rightly points out, nobody puts more pressure on him than he puts on himself,” Brundle told Speedcafe.com.
“He is a world-class sportsman and a world-class driver. He’s won eight races, 32 podiums, he’s 32…
“Form is temporary and class is permanent, as they say, and I don’t think he forgot how to drive a Formula 1 car.
“Something isn’t working and I don’t think it’s just about the 2022 cars because if you take Monza out of last year it wasn’t great either – Monza was a bit of a savior.”
While the pressure had been building for a while, it came to a head two weeks ago in the run-up to the Monaco Grand Prix.
Then McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown suggested that the team’s relationship with Ricciardo had not lived up to expectations.
That was not a widely accepted line of organisation, however, with team boss Andreas Seidl, who is in charge of the operation on a day-to-day basis, throwing his support behind his besieged driver.
Some of the misery that Ricciardo has experienced, at least on Sunday, in 2022 can be easily understood.
Bahrain, for example, was his first race back from a coronavirus outbreak, having also completed the final three days of pre-season testing.
In Saudi Arabia, the car let him down, while in Australia it had its best performance of the season, stuck to Norris’ rear wing.
The next time at Imola, he tagged Carlos Sainz, who in turn was shunted by Valtteri Bottas, leaving him with a badly damaged car.
Miami proved to be a circuit that capitalized on the weaknesses of the MCL36, with Ricciardo being the only McLaren driver to see the flag.
After the Spanish Grand Prix, a fault was found in his car which explained why he couldn’t do better than 12th in a race that saw Norris finishing eighth.
In Monaco, a practice crash for which the team has since taken responsibility, left the Australian on the back foot.
Given the rambunctious start to the year, some of which he made himself and some that weren’t, it’s easy to see the criticism he’s received.
However, it also suggests that Seidl’s defense is justified, even if Norris tends to be the better-performing McLaren drivers.
“I don’t think it’s just about Lando doing extremely well,” said Brundle.
“I don’t think Daniel is performing optimally for whatever reason.
“Lando is doing well, but Daniel is better than his results seem.
“It’s strange,” he continued.
“McLaren wants it to work, Daniel wants it to work.
“Teams like continuity, it’s a great combination of drivers, really great drivers, they work well together at all levels – I’m sure technically, you know, driving, on the marketing and on the side, all that.
“So I think both sides really want it to work well, so it’s a bit confusing.
“Wherever Daniel’s speed has gone, he has to get it back.”
While there’s no obvious candidate to replace Ricciardo if the partnership deteriorates further, Brundle warns against complacency.
McLaren has signed IndyCar driver Colton Herta to a testing program this year and also has Pato O’Ward on the books.
While neither currently seems race-ready for F1, there’s no reason why, with enough investment from McLaren, both couldn’t rush into action if they wanted to.
There are others too.
Pierre Gasly shone at Scuderia AlphaTauri and was recently overlooked again for the senior Red Bull team, while Oscar Piastri is both highly regarded and technically available, albeit with a link to Alpine.
“It’s a tough case we’re in,” Brundle noted.
“There are 20 Formula 1 drivers in the world and McLaren cannot enter 2023 if Daniel performs at this level with him.
“I think they say that, and I imagine they sit down and talk about it.
“I am a big fan of him as a driver, as a person, as an asset to Formula 1. We will all be ecstatic when it all comes together and it settles down.
“It’s a main game, like top-level sport anywhere, anytime,” he added.
“He needs to get his head back in the right place.”
Ricciardo is next in action at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with Free Practice 1 taking place on Friday from 9:00 PM AEST.
Sunday’s race kicks off at the same time as the action live on Kayo.
#Brundle #Ricciardo #results #Speedcafe