McLaren’s Zak Brown has dispelled any doubts that Daniel Ricciardo could be dropped for 2023, reiterating the team’s faith in the driver.
Rumours regarding Ricciardo’s future at McLaren being in question escalated in recent weeks as Brown, the CEO, revealed there are “mechanisms” in place to remove the Australian from his seat if McLaren really wished to, and that Ricciardo has failed to meet expectations so far.
With Lando Norris currently seventh in the Drivers’ Championship on 58 points, Ricciardo has only managed 15 points in the second McLaren in what is proving to be an equally difficult second season with the Woking-based squad after a tough 2021.
But Brown has revealed why he was willing to speak so frankly about the situation, saying openness is a trait he and Ricciardo share.
“Not at all within the race team,” Brown told Fox Sports Australia when asked whether the admission had led to ripples at McLaren.
“I know it caused a lot of ripples outside [but] Daniel and I have a great relationship. We had dinner in London not too long after that. We are trading WhatsApps all the time. Someone asked me a question and I gave an honest answer. It’s the same answer Daniel has given and would give, which is that we are not where we want to be.
“I think, on the flip side, if I said ‘no, everything’s great’, I think some would say ‘really, you’re happy with 12th?’ Of course I’m not happy with 12th. So it was just an honest answer. It wasn’t meant to be critical.”
Brown confirmed Ricciardo will see out his three-year deal with McLaren, which means he will definitely be at the wheel of the MCL37 in 2023, and Brown said he knows more performances like his race victory at Monza in 2021 are still in Ricciardo.
“It doesn’t mean we don’t think he can win us more races,” he explained.
“It doesn’t mean we are not trying unbelievably hard – quite the opposite. I know he can win us more races. We are trying unbelievably hard. But given his resume, and how Lando is going, do we expect him to be right next to Lando, whether that’s right in front or right behind? Yeah, and so does he. And we’ll get there.
“We are totally committed to it. I saw one of our former grand prix drivers went ‘well, we all know it, I can’t believe he said it!’ And I was like ‘well, if we all know it, what’s the big deal that I said it?’
“It wasn’t intended to be [anything] other than someone asked me a question and I gave an honest answer.”
With Ricciardo showing some signs of improvement with eighth place in Azerbaijan and beating Norris home in Montreal, Brown joked maybe speculation about his job security might be bringing out the best in Ricciardo.
“Maybe we need to do that a little bit more often!” he said.
“He’s a fighter and his results since we’ve said that, he’s been much closer to Lando, and beaten Lando. So maybe there was something to a little bit of firing him up. When you look at these different athletes, you see coaches that yell at their players. It wasn’t the intended consequence but I think you just keep pushing hard.
“We love working with him. He loves the team. We’ve seen that when we give him a car that’s capable of winning, he could win. As he said, last year he didn’t feel he had a good season and he still won. So it’s in there, we’ve just got to figure out how to unlock it, give him a car he’s more comfortable with and we’ve got a great relationship.”
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