Daniel Ricciardo gets much-needed McLaren lifeline amid horror F1 slump

The McLaren team principal is backing Daniel Ricciardo as speculation grows about his future in F1.

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl backs Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo as speculation about his future in Formula 1 mounts.

The 32-year-old has failed to live up to expectations since joining the British team for the 2021 season, taking just one podium finish and being repeatedly outclassed by younger team-mate Lando Norris.

The buzz that Ricciardo’s contract could be torn up a year earlier grew in volume after last month’s Monaco Grand Prix, where the Perth driver finished 13th.

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But talk to Sky Sports F1 on Saturday, Seidl gave Ricciardo a much-needed vote of confidence.

“Formula 1 is a team sport and I don’t care if it’s the mechanics, the engineers or the driver,” he said.

“It is important that we have a culture within the team where we are very clear internally about things that we need to improve.

“It is very clear that my job as a team principal is to protect the team from the outside world. In the last 20 years I have not seen a driver get faster because he was publicly criticized.

“We have a contract with Daniel for next year and that’s why we all keep calm, we keep working hard and try to find those percentages that he is missing at the moment. And then we look forward to better results with him.”

Ahead of the qualifying session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Saturday, Ricciardo did not hesitate when asked if he knew where he would be driving in 2023.

“I have a contract with the team until the end of next year,” he said.

“So that’s as black and white as it is. I’m also committed to them, I really want to make it work.

“Certainly the last few weekends I’m not happy with the results, but I also don’t mind having my back against the wall sometimes. I like to prove people wrong. And moments like Monza last year, days like that I know how powerful they can be and that’s also the hunger to get that back and have that feeling again.

“If people want to keep talking, I won’t stop them from talking, but it’s the facts.

“I know what I’m capable of. I just know that fire and that drive and that determination is there. The more this series of not great results, certainly at the moment my head will drop because of course that’s not the result I want to cross the finish line with, that just fuels me to get back to the front.

“In a way, the bad results motivate me even more and I know I have the full support of the team. I really like the team and I want to reward them for the effort they put in. We want to do it together.”

Ricciardo will start twelfth on the grid for Sunday’s race in Baku, one place behind Norris.

Meanwhile, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc lived up to his status as the master of the poles by pulling out a flying lap to keep the Red Bulls at bay in qualifying.

The 24-year-old, who registers his fourth consecutive pole and sixth of the season, will have in-form Sergio Perez joining the front row.

“It feels good,” said an excited Leclerc, who has failed to convert one of his three most recent poles into victory.

“The feeling is there and it’s good, so I’m optimistic for tomorrow. I just want to finish the job.”

Perez, who won on the streets of the Azerbaijani capital 12 months ago, again outperformed his world champion teammate Max Verstappen, who starts on the second row with Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari.

– with AFP

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