Ricciardo grins and bears it through grim final season alongside Norris

2022 F1 team mate battles: Norris vs Ricciardo

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When was the last time a driver rated as highly as Daniel Ricciardo joined a team and under-performed as unexpectedly as he did?

Few would have expected when Ricciardo joined McLaren on a three-year deal at the beginning of 2021 that he would be shown the door with a year left to run on his contract.

But the astonishing aspect of Ricciardo’s plight was not simply that his first season at McLaren went poorly – notwithstanding that against-the-run-of-play Monza victory. The true shock came when his second season began at it swiftly became clear he had fallen further behind team mate Lando Norris.

Thanks in part to his Italian Grand Prix win, Ricciardo ended last season with 115 points to Norris’ 160: Not a good result by any means, but defensible. Points are not always an accurate measure of performance, however, and Ricciardo’s haul of 41.8% of McLaren’s total last year flattered his qualifying and race result score-line compared to his team mate.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Imola, 2022
Norris delivered McLaren’s only podium finish, at Imola
This year Ricciardo contributed less than a quarter of McLaren’s points. That was a more accurate reflection of a season in which Norris out-qualified him 20-2. The two occasions Ricciardo came out in front were in Spain, where Norris fell foul of track limits, and Canada, where he suffered a power unit fault.

Ricciardo signed with McLaren in 2020, and that year the team finished third in the constructors’ championship. They dropped to fourth in 2021, and slipped to fifth this year. But how much of that down to Ricciardo’s under-performance?

The points table tells its own story: Norris finished ahead of both Alpine drivers and 85 points clear of Ricciardo, yet Alpine beat McLaren to fourth place by just 14 points. Norris reached the points 18 times, more than either of his Alpine rivals, and over twice as often as Ricciardo did.

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One frustrating aspect of Ricciardo’s season was that it wasn’t uniformly bad. Occasionally he rediscovered his lost confidence in the car though it invariably proved fleeting. He left Monaco cautiously optimistic he had made gains with the MCL36, only to be frustrated again.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2022
Ricciardo bowed out with a points finish
Even towards the end of the season in Mexico he said he felt happier in the car, only by then he knew not to get his hopes up. He at least managed to sign off with a points finish, rebuffing Sebastian Vettel for ninth place at Yas Marina, ensuring he ended the season level on points with the Aston Martin driver.

It was striking that Norris also admitted the McLaren was a difficult car to get the best out of. He was able to wield it much more effectively, however, regularly put himself at the sharp end of the midfield and stayed out of trouble. But his unobtrusively strong season tended to get overlooked alongside his team mate’s plight.

It is to Ricciardo’s immense credit that he bore such a disappointing year with such good humour. Small wonder that, come the end of it, he didn’t fancy plunging into yet another campaign with his fourth different team in six seasons, which would likely involve bringing up the rear of the grid, and instead sets off for a year on the sidelines.

Ricciardo arrived at McLaren relishing the prospect of a Mercedes-powered machine which would put him in the hunt for wins and, eventually, championships. Instead he leaves facing an uncertain future and the genuinely possibility his time as an F1 racing driver may be over.

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Unrepresentative comparisons omitted. Negative value: Norris was faster; Positive value: Ricciardo was faster

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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...

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21 comments on “Ricciardo grins and bears it through grim final season alongside Norris”

  1. Ricciardo showing why he deserves that Red Bull seat already for next year. I say kick Perez out and put Money Badger in, beacuse smiling and shouting obscenities is what championship team needs.

  2. It takes a special kind of talent to get a high-money, three-year deal out of any Formula 1 team.

    But getting beaten so thoroughly through two seasons that said teams then pays you handsomely to go do something, anything else, well, that’s next-level.

    But media darling, so it’s all great.

  3. Ricciardo was so absolutely terrible at Mclaren that some people will be utterly disappointed if Norris does not turn out to be the greatest driver ever.

    After all, he made the almighty Ricciardo look as bad at his job as Latifi right?

  4. Is that the worst stats on the grid? What a tough year for Ric.

  5. If endless talk won championships Ricciardo would have two.

    The empty vessels and all that.

  6. This has been even worse trouncing than Räikkönen got from Alonso in 2014 at Ferrari.

    It’s hard to understand how Ricciardo could so consistently fail to get it right, or even close to right, given that he did quite well in the difficult to master Red Bull cars that almost ruined the careers of multiple drivers.

    Given that Ricciardo will be close to 35 at the start of the 2024 season, and his most recent good season will then be almost half a decade ago, it seems unlikely he’ll be back in a permanent seat.

    1. It’s hard to understand how Ricciardo could so consistently fail to get it right, or even close to right, given that he did quite well in the difficult to master Red Bull cars that almost ruined the careers of multiple drivers.

      It’s not hard to understand at all. Some will just never experience what it means – car and driver need to work together and match each other. They are inseparable in terms of potential performance and achievement.
      It’s never all car or all driver – good or bad.
      Quite obviously, Ricciardo’s natural driving style is a better match with the Red Bull cars he has driven, while Norris suits the McLaren better. The team’s attitude in providing a car for their driver goes a very long way to creating that harmony.

      1. I would argue Ricciardo’s 2020 season is his best ever. He made Esteban Ocon look like a bottom tier driver

        1. Yep, he had a decent season.
          Again, it’s fair to say that the car suited him better than it did Ocon.

          Ricciardo is undoubtedly a good racer – but with a dud car that doesn’t do what the driver wants and expects, anyone will look like an amateur.

          1. It is better than decent. Don’t know what happened to him at McLaren. But he has proven himself time and time again how good he was. Probably the 2nd best driver ever after Leclerc to not win a WDC title. Ricciardo was Max’s best teammate ever, Ricciardo was Ocon’s best teammate ever(sorry 40-year old Alonso) and Ricciardo was arguably Hulk’s best teammate ever too.(Barrichello is there too). Plus Ricciardo was also Vettel’s 2nd best teammate ever(after Leclerc)

            I’m sorry a bad McLaren stint can’t erase how good he was before. Norris is a Sainz level driver. And at his best Ricciardo was undoubtedly better than Sainz(see Verstappen 2015/2016, see Hulk 2018/2019). Norris needs to prove himself against much more proven teammates. Not a driver who was like a fish out of water at McLaren.

          2. That claim is ridiculous:

            “Probably the 2nd best driver ever after Leclerc to not win a WDC title.”

            I mean just throwing some names out there like Montoya, Alesi, Berger, Coulthard off the top of my head but there are many more who I’d rank above Ricciardo.

            Sure he was a talented driver in the past but this year he looked awful and whatever the reason he was a big contributing factor for that performance.

  7. Keke Rosberg at McLaren 1986, maybe. Somewhat similar circumstances-teammate Prost setup did not suit him.

    1. Great comparison. Another one is Elio De Angelis at Brabham that same year.

    2. Vettel is a recent one. Never delivered anymore after RedBull. Was quite a disappointment at Ferrari. Aston subsequently hiring him was one of the most surprising deals I have seen in recent years…at first I thought well maybe they have plans to exploit his name Marketing wise, but havent really seen them do it. I guess it was a decision to flatter the teams ego.

  8. Yes, that graph looks really bad, I had to laugh when I saw it, despite knowing ricciardo had been destroyed.

  9. When was the last time a driver rated as highly as Daniel Ricciardo joined a team and under-performed as unexpectedly as he did?

    Nigel Mansell, McLaren, 1995.

    1. Not a fair comparison. Mansell was out of F1 for a few years. And was over 40 at this point.

      1. He’d also won the previous race (which would still have been a podium even if Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill hadn’t collided ahead), and because of this was assumed to still have what it took to race at a high level.

  10. Made me think of Damon Hill at Jordan. They even both got a surprise win (and a 1-2!) in the first year. But their team-mates wiped the floor with them in ’99 and this year.

    I think Dan should let Sgt have his number three… won’t be needing it again.

    1. @bullfrog It’s not Daniel’s to give away. The FIA controls race numbers and forbids anyone taking a race number that’s been used by someone else in the previous two years (or numbers it has retired).

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