‘Oh yeah’: McLaren boss drops Ricciardo contract hint, hits back at criticism of brutal honesty

Zak Brown says he remains “completely committed” to unlocking Daniel Ricciardo’s full potential amid speculation the eight-time Grand Prix winner’s stay at McLaren could be cut short.

Expectations were high that Ricciardo’s driving style difference to last year’s car would disappear under the all-new rules for 2022, but so far he has barely improved on his troubled first campaign. He has only scored twice in 10 Grands Prix for 15 points, while team-mate Lando Norris has amassed 58 points from seven top-10 finishes, including a podium at Imola.

The low point of his season, back-to-back off-tempo races in Spain and Monaco – Norris scored in both points despite a severe bout of tonsillitis – even sparked an apparent rebuke from CEO Brown, who publicly admitted the high-profile Aussie was not t meet the expectations of the team.

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Brown: Daniel loves us and we love him | 01:05

The unusually candid comments have become a major focus of McLaren’s season, but in an exclusive interview with Fox Motorsport presenter Jessica Yates at the McLaren Technology Center ahead of last weekend’s British Grand Prix, Brown denied they should be interpreted as having doubts. Ricciardo’s ability to reverse. things around.

“It was just an honest answer, it wasn’t meant as a criticism,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t think he can win us more races, it doesn’t mean we don’t try incredibly hard – quite the contrary; I know he can win more races for us, we are trying incredibly hard.

“But given his resume and how Lando is doing, we expect him to be next to Lando, be that in front of or behind him? Yes, and so does he.

‘And we’re going to get there. We are fully committed to it.”

The full interview is now live on Kayo and available for free through Kayo Freebies.

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Brown also seemed to leave the door open to the possibility that the three-year deal linking Ricciardo to McLaren could be broken, but Brown insisted that wouldn’t be the case.

“Oh yes,” he confirmed when asked if Ricciardo would finish his contract with the team.

“He’s a fighter, and his results since we said that — they weren’t meant to be — were a lot closer to Lando and he beat Lando, so maybe something… shook him up.

“We enjoy working with him. He loves the team. We’ve seen that when we give him a car that can win, he can win in it.

“Like he said last year, he didn’t feel like he had a good season last year and he won anyway. So it’s in there. We just have to figure out how to unlock him and give him a car where he can feel more comfortable.” feel comfortable with.”

Brown also hit back at suggestions that it was inappropriate for the CEO to publicly criticize his drivers’ performance, especially when team boss Andreas Seidl had been steadfastly defending Ricciardo during his struggles.

“I saw one of our former Grand Prix drivers say, ‘Well, we all know; I can’t believe he said it,” he said, referring to Jenson Button. “Well, if we all know, who cares if I said it?

“I know it’s caused a lot of ripples outside” [but] Daniel and I have a great relationship. Not long after, we had dinner in London. We trade WhatsApps all the time. Someone asked me a question and I gave them an honest answer. It is the same answer Daniel has given and would give, which is that we are not where we want to be.

“I think on the other hand, if I had said, ‘No, everything is great,’ I think someone would have said, ‘Really, you’re happy with the 12th?’. Of course I’m not happy with the 12th. ”

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

He also reiterated his belief that the partnership between Norris and Ricciardo could still live up to its potential on paper.

“We were lucky enough to find Lando at a young age, so he’s in our system,” he said.

“He is definitely a future world champion. We just have to give him a car that can win races, and then he starts winning races.

“A few years ago I tried to get Daniel in our car – he eventually went to Renault, and then we tried him again, this time with success.

“Who are the best drivers with the most talent on the track, who we love to work with, our race team loves to work with, our fans will love it, our sponsors will love it? I think we have that with Daniel and Lando.”

In the full 20-minute interview, Brown also discusses how he hopes to change McLaren as he takes up residence at the helm of the company, as well as his expectations for the rest of the F1 season and his hopes for Walkinshaw Andretti United’s move. from GM to Ford for next year’s Supercars campaign.

The full interview is now live on Kayo and available for free through Kayo Freebies.

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