‘I’m deciding my future’: Ricciardo tells RaceFans he ‘still loves F1 more than anything’

2022 French Grand Prix

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When Daniel Ricciardo signed up to drive for McLaren, he would never have imagined the troubled situation he finds himself in halfway through his three-year deal.

The Austrian Grand Prix marked that mid-way point, and saw only his third top-10 finish on a Sunday since this season began. Ricciardo has scored barely more than a quarter of team mate Lando Norris’s points tally.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown caused a stir earlier in the year by indicating his dissatisfaction with Ricciardo’s performance. Brown has also been busy signing driver contracts: a new McLaren deal or extension seems to come at the rate of one per month.

Norris got a new F1 deal earlier in the year, less than 12 months after his last one, which inevitably set tongues wagging about how his performances had eclipsed his senior team mate’s. Then came contract extensions for IndyCar duo Patricio O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, plus an F1 test deal for their Andretti rival Colton Herta, who is widely regarded as one of America’s top prospects for a future switch to grand prix racing.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Ricciardo’s McLaren career began with a promising sixth place
Then, in a seismic development, McLaren also announced it had nabbed reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou from his Ganassi squad, mere hours after that team claimed to have taken up an option on his services for 2023.

Between the expanded, three-car IndyCar team McLaren intends to field next year, plus its two new Formula E seats to fill, more than enough berths exist for its enviable line-up of drivers. But the Palou deal sparked fresh speculation over whether McLaren remained committed to Ricciardo for the third and final year of his F1 contract.

Strikingly, within 24 hours of the Palou announcement, Ricciardo took to social media to make his position clear.

“There have been a lot of rumours around my future in Formula 1 but I want you to hear it from me,” he wrote. “I am committed to McLaren until the end of next year and I am not walking away from the sport.”

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“[I] appreciate it hasn’t always been easy, but who wants easy?” he continued. “I’m working my ass off with the team to make improvements and get the car right and back to the front where it belongs. I still want this more than ever.

Poor Monaco weekend set alarm bells ringing
“See you in Le Castellet.”

A little over a week later at the Paul Ricard near Le Castellet, Ricciardo sat down with RaceFans and explained why he felt the time had come to put an end to the mounting rumours.

“Putting out a statement was kind of saying that in a way ‘I’m deciding my future’,” said the 33-year-old. “Obviously people are like, ‘what’s he doing, what’s going to happen, is he even going to be here, does he want to be here?’ and all that.

“No. I very much want to be here. Not only in the sport, but with McLaren.”

In last year’s more competitive car, Ricciardo’s difficulties weren’t immediately apparent: He scored points in his first four races for his new team. But an off-colour performance in Monaco, where he’s taken one win and was robbed of another, was the clearest initial signal something was amiss. Ricciardo came in 12th and was lapped by Norris as the other McLaren headed to the podium.

There were clear signs of improvement over the course of the season and, in Monza, a joyous win which ended McLaren’s near-decade-long drought. That raised hopes that come 2022, in McLaren’s first car designed to account for his driving preferences, Ricciardo had something to build on.

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Instead the MCL36 was ill-born, beset by braking problems. Ricciardo missed a test after contracting Covid-19, and the car’s variable performance since appears to have sent him back to square one. He is, however, patiently working at addressing his problems, and believes he has been on the right path since the Monaco Grand Prix at the end of May.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Monza, 2021
Monza win was not the shape of things to come
“It’s a challenge that I don’t want to back down from, ultimately, it was as simple as that,” says Ricciardo, while indicating again that the decision over whether he remains at McLaren next year rests with him and not the team. “It’s something I’d say, like, it’s in my control, it’s something that I want to keep pursuing.”

Ricciardo and McLaren’s expectations of the success they would enjoy together have clearly not been realised, aside from that Monza win, which was his eighth career grand prix victory. Regular talks between the two parties are continuing.

“Unless you have these conversations, not everyone will always know how you’re feeling,” Ricciardo explained. “Of course, I’m a driver obviously that believes I can be winning and if I’m not people are probably wondering, okay, where is his head at? What’s he thinking?

“So they’re conversations that you just feel like you need to have to, in a way, just remind the team, remind people that obviously also are working their butts off for me, that I’m all-in on this and I still want this and I still believe I can do it. You have the regular conversations just to avoid or remove any doubt.

“I think also for people at the factory who don’t come to the track, they might just read some headlines and that so then they might be like, ‘what’s Daniel going to do?’ So I think for them to hear from me as well, I think that’s important, just stating my intentions and making sure they hear it from the horse’s mouth.”

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Ricciardo insists he doesn’t find the inevitable questions about his future a distraction from the task at hand. He still flashes the trademark mile-wide grin as readily as ever. That, and his passion for F1, are clearly undiminished by his recent travails.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Red Bull Ring, 2022
Ricciardo is determined to fight on at McLaren
“I still love it,” he says. “On the days that I, in a way, hate it, I love it just as much.

“The struggles also motivate me to get back to the front, to find a way. So I think simply I just still love it more than anything.”

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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31 comments on “‘I’m deciding my future’: Ricciardo tells RaceFans he ‘still loves F1 more than anything’”

  1. Good move by Mclaren.

    Hedged their options well.

    1. massive letdown

      1. mclaren paid too much
        get rekt

  2. I’m not sure the people he’s trying to show his intentions are particularly looking forward to another 30+ races of him underperforming.

    To me, it’s all negotiation talk anyway. Eventually, money will change hands, and someone new will be in the second McLaren in 2023.

  3. Man, can you have a more perfect set of chompers? 😁

  4. Imagine being in a position where you left Red Bull because they’d never build a car for your strengths, only to end up at McLaren, where they’ll never build a car for your strengths.
    Ricciardo’s inadvertently joined a club filled with many great talents who never really had the support they needed to be more successful.
    That’s how F1 works – or doesn’t work, depending on which (political) side of the garage you get. Teams aren’t always about teamwork…

    1. But the thing is, he was number 1 at red bull, he lost his number 1 status due to being outperformed by verstappen, more so with every season, however he was still regularly fast in his last red bull season, now he isn’t, not sure he can be considered a great talent on the basis of his mclaren adventure.

      1. Verstappen was number 1 right from his debut with the team. Arguably even before, given how quickly they turned out Kvyat.

        I’m not sure you can really say that Ricciardo isn’t fast now. The car is obviously not set up for him.
        I wonder if you think Vettel is still fast now, considering he was pretty dominant when he had a car that matched his preferences and strengths. Has he forgotten how to drive too?
        Should we also determine whether Schumacher was a great based on his final Merc years? Or how about Raikkonen at Alfa?
        Being lumbered with a car that doesn’t suit you might make you look untalented, but it doesn’t mean that that is the problem. It means the partnership of car a driver simply doesn’t work.

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          22nd July 2022, 11:16

          The best drivers can adapt to what they’re driving. Look at someone like Alonso – he has massively changed his driving style over the years and has had a lot of success doing so.

          Other drivers have success when a car suits them but when it doesn’t, they struggle. Vettel and Ricciardo are examples of that. They drive how they drive and if the car is a good match they’ll be quick.

          1. I don’t think Verstappen was favoured that much at his debut at RB. In his first qualifying he was only marginally outperformed by Ricciardo. With so little time spent in the car, it is impossible to be favoured. It was just the talent of Verstappen. Over time, Verstappen only got even better and got tot know his team better also.

            Talk about being favoured, than look at Hamilton’s first year next to Alonso.

          2. I agree in theory that some drivers can adapt better than others – but I’m not convinced that leads straight to better results.
            Adapting driving style to a car that fundamentally doesn’t work for you is still not going to achieve much. You’ll never match someone who feels completely comfortable and natural in the same machinery, no matter how good you are.
            In 1950’s F1, I’d probably argue the same point as you are – there was loads of scope for driver influence then – but not in modern motorsport. There just isn’t the window for the driver to make that much difference any more.

            I think it’s easy to say that some can do it and some can’t – but it’s not really so black and white. Everyone can do it to some degree. It also depends on the car and what the driver wants from it. Sometimes there really is no driving around some issues, nor making up for a lack of something.

          3. I’d say it was a pretty similar situation with Verstappen and Hamilton, @Markos.
            Both young guys were brought in with huge backing, support and expectation. It’ was bound to not go well for their more experienced team-mates when the team clearly and publicly backs the new guy more than the old one.

          4. S Certainly some shades of grey to what you are saying. Firstly, of course a team is going to back both their drivers. In the case of Max coming in, of course they were going to pump him up. Why wouldn’t they? But DR was already there having enjoyed the same hype when he came to the team, and had every opportunity to see to it that the hype over Max was just that. And initially when Max was throwing away points and opportunities often to the benefit of DR, all the more reason DR could have pounced on that. Indeed he was in there and doing very well until Max learned his lesson at Monaco 2018 and started making smarter racing decisions. The rest is history.

            You’re right that when a car just doesn’t suit a driver there’s not always a lot he can do. but I can’t think of any of DR’s RBR cars as having not suited him though.

            As to building a car for a certain driver, I’m sure some of that may go on, but I thought Max had an interesting perspective on that. As he said even if a team were to build a car for a certain driver, conditions change all the time anyway, often even within a stint. The driver has to still be prepared to drive a car that oversteers on a day, when he normally favours a bit of understeer or the opposite etc etc. And I’d be very very surprised if any team had any opportunity with these new cars to not only take on the task of building a competitive car, which would have been an unknown relative to what the rest were doing, let alone a car meant for one drivers style over another’s.

            I think the reality for DR at RBR is simply that an incredible talent came into the team and backed the hype with actual proof on the track, and that’s not down to them favouring Max so much that it completely overshadowed and shut out DR. If that was the case DR wouldn’t have had such a tough decision as he did, by his own admission. If that was the case the team themselves wouldn’t have been so shocked at his decision to leave. It would have all been much more expected and matter of fact.

          5. I’d suggest that Red Bull progressively shifted their focus away from Ricciardo’s style and more toward Verstappen. Ricciardo’s final year there was certainly not as comfortable or natural (in driving) as his first.

            And I’d be very very surprised if any team had any opportunity with these new cars

            That’s an interesting statement. I’d say the opposite. The team would have decided right from the initial design stage whether they wanted a particularly pointy car (as Verstappen prefers) or a more predictable and forgiving car (Perez’ preference). They have two very different drivers, and know very well what each prefers. And ever since Vettel arrived there, they’ve pretty much always had a strong preference for which of their driver’s they prefer to see winning more than the other.

            For what it’s worth (which is basically nothing) I reckon that Verstappen and Ricciardo want pretty similar things in the car, which is why neither particularly embarrassed the other. Compare them with Gasly and Albon, on the other hand, and they simply couldn’t handle the aggression the car requires. They aren’t those kinds of drivers in other cars either.

            I don’t think they were all that surprised when Ricciardo pulled the pin. They certainly took the opportunity to use the media for their benefit and against Ricciardo, though. Not their fault, they are a great, friendly and dedicated team who always treat their drivers equally…… Just ask Webber. Or Kvyat, or Albon…..
            Red Bull is a marketing business, remember. Playing media games is their forte. Their core essence, even.

            Having said all that, I’m pretty sure most other teams would have played the same game given the same circumstances. That’s just the way motorsport – and F1 in particular – works these days.

          6. If they did progressively shift their focus towards Max there’d be a reason for that. Yet you’re saying their needs were similar. And the thing is Max did start to embarrass DR, leading him in several categories, once he (Max) toned down his exuberance of youth post Monaco 2018. Outqualified him 2-1, ahead of DR during races most often, ahead in finishing positions when they both finished etc etc. If that was down to them taking the car out of DR’s hands and putting it into Max’s we’d have heard a lot more about that from within F1, but most of this type of talk is amongst posters on sites.

            I disagree as to how much they were able or concerned with building these new cars to be specifically pointy as you say, and anyway here today we have Max complaining of understeer. I really don’t think it is as simple as them saying let’s build this wholly new car pointy for Max, and then snap their fingers and it’s done, and he’s golden for the season.

            Not sure how they used the media against DR. They were genuinely surprised when DR announced his departure and when asked were saying as such and that they had offered DR everything he had asked for. In pressing them for more answers they eventually (keeping in mind DR was still going to be with them for the rest of the season) said the only thing it could be was Max was too formidable an opponent.

            As to Kvyat and Gasly and Albon we know that they just weren’t up to top level performance when RBR needed it. As to Webber if he was so hard done by ask yourself why he kept re-signing with the team.

            Yes other teams would have played their cards similarly to RBR, not that I agree entirely with your take on how/why those cards were played.

  5. Daniel is naturally faster than Lando but he needs a car that he really meshes with to show his talent. Tough for him that RB and McLaren built cars that flatter Max* and Lando respectively.

    1. If ricciardo had been faster than verstappen they’d have built the car around him.

      1. This whole “they have to built the car around a driver” fairy tale is rather nonsense anyways. Sure, if they do that a driver can get those final hundreds and thousands of seconds out of a car, but the best driver adapts to the car underneath them, rallies the team around them, and gets the performance out of the package as best they can. This is why when Max gets a promotion in the middle of a season, he can immediately win a race in a car he knows nothing about. Or why Lando gets in Q3 and even gets podium finishes in a car that’s not really podium material.

        Daniel is a good driver, but he’s really been exposed after leaving Red Bull as to how well he is able to adapt to different material and get on pace in cars not directly suited to him. To diminish Max and Lando’s performance and putting it down to the car being built for them is rather disingenuous. There certainly doesn’t seem to be much argument of Daniel being “naturally faster” (what does this even mean, people need to start accepting that sportspeople work hard to get at a certain level and aren’t just born being good at what they do).

        1. As far as a car being built for a driver you only have to look at this years RBR, early on it suited checo, they are actively developing it back towards a car that suits Max’s driving style.

          1. As I said, obviously you do that for those last hundreds of seconds of lap time. But also, that proves exactly my point.

            Max won six races with that car suited to Checo. Checo won one, and it was a rather fortunate win at that.

          2. As far as a car being built for a driver you only have to look at this years RBR, early on it suited checo, they are actively developing it back towards a car that suits Max’s driving style.

            This has been greatly exaggerated and basically hinges on the fact that Checo was reasonably close in the championship only due to Max’s misfortune and Checo having an actual good weekend in Monaco (but where Max was hindered in his last lap in qualifying where he was going to improve – granted, Checo did well to get a better lap in earlier).

            Looking at race performances Max has had Checo’s number from the beginning and not too much has changed during the season.

      2. +1
        Same in any team, if in testing or practice one set of adjustments end up with a faster lap time then a team would be stupid not to continue in that direction.
        Given Lando has been developing the car since day one, it is no surprise it has gone in his direction. I think if the car had been developed with Daniels input earlier, I suspect it would have been a lot faster car for both drivers, (still probably with Lando in front but Daniel a lot more competitive).

      3. Marko himself has said that Dan is on par speed wise with Max. They built a car around the one they wanted to be champion.

        1. There are also such things as setup skills and race craft. Ricciardo is (was?) very good. But Verstappen is just a little better.

        2. Ross Perhaps you can reference where you can support this claim. I’m not saying I don’t think that it is possible that a team may build a car that leans toward a certain drivers preference, but what do you have to go on in the case of Max and RBR? I’d be genuinely interested in reading any expert input on this topic.

          I think particularly for this season with these brand new cars the teams ‘simply’ tried to build the best car they felt they could based on their interpretation of the regs. I’d be very surprised if they also had the time and ability to build into it a certain characteristic for a certain driver.

          Further to that what Max has said on the topic is that even if a team built a car for a drivers specific preferences, the car and how it feels is constantly changing anyway, even within a stint let alone through a race let alone from one venue to the next. The driver still has to adapt and can never expect and assume that it will always be there for him at all times.

  6. He loves the money and notoriety is what he loves. If he gets booted from F1, he’ll lose all that and get a significant downgrade of 💰 and fame at IndyCar

  7. I still haven’t read anything that gives me confidence that he can turn it around. This interview, like others about his performance, is just a lot of hollow words mixed with the great personality he has. I’d love to see his performance live up to his personality again.

  8. It would be quite bad if a person who has reached in a point of life where Danny is couldn’t choose his future or someone else would say what he can and can’t do.

  9. He isn’t going anywhere, so people should finally stop speculating about his short-term future.

    1. Maybe he can outbid Nicky for the second Williams with his severance package? 😜

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