Formula One is famed for people making ruthless decisions. Hamilton was about to be ditched by Ron Dennis when Brawn and Mercedes came calling in the nick of time. Daniel Ricciardo has now been sacked by Zak Brown mid way through his 2 year contract with the team. Yet the Aussie should not take it personally given the historic tales of how the ‘Piranha Club’ operates.
Damon Hill was given his marching orders by Frank Williams during the season while he was in the process of winning the drivers’ world title for the team in 1996.
Frank who founded the Williams team admitted some years later, “I probably thought at the time, almost certainly did: ‘Great, great. Thank you, Damon – we need to do better.’ And I thought the guy we chose would do better and in fact it was a serious error of judgment. For which I’m responsible.”
Damon Hill remarkably became the fourth Williams driver in 9 years who won the drivers’ title but was subsequently released the following season. Frank was indeed ruthless in pursuit of the next great ‘thing’.
Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost were all similarly sacked by Williams the year they became F1 world champions driving for the Grove based team.
Heinz Harald Frenzen from Sauber replaced world champion Damon Hill at Williams in 1997 but the German proved a huge disappointment despite Hill’s ex team mate Jacques Villeuve taking the drivers’ title.
The moral of the story is – this is not the end for Daniel Ricciardo. As they say ‘Form is temporary but class is permanent.’
Daniel joined the big boy Red Bull team replacing Mark Webber in 2014 alongside 4 times world champion Sebastian Vettel. That season the Aussie dominated his 4 time world champion team mate and finished 4th in the drivers’ title. Vettel was 8th and suddenly on his way to Ferrari.
In 2015 Ricciardo was joined by Russian driver Daniel Kyat. The Red Bull car was less competitive that year and Ricciardo scored the only team’s podium in Hungary. Kvyat finished P8 in the drivers championship with Ricciardo in P9 close behind.
The following year Kvyat was dropped after 4 races and the young Max Vertsappen was drafted in from Torro Rosso.. Ricciardo finished 3rd in driver’s championship with a win and 3 podiums 2 places ahead of young gun Verstappen.
2017 saw Ricciardo win a race for Red Bull together with 7 podiums but the team performance was poor as they were just third as a constructor. Verstappen again finished a place behind Ricciardo in the drivers’ title in P6.
Now having been Red Bull’s lead driver for 4 seasons Daniel Ricciardo faced his toughest year for the Milton Keynes team. Following a collision with team mate Verstappen in round 4 of the championship which saw both cars eliminated,. Ricciardo went into a spiral.
It appeared the team blamed him for the contact in Baku with Verstappen and that loss of confidence and support was something Ricciardo never recovered from. The Aussie racer actually landed two wins for Red Bull that season to Verstappen’s 1. However the Dutchman scored 249 points at the seasons end to Ricciardo’s 170. This would not have proven to be fatal for Red Bull’s Australian driver and the team wanted him for the following year.
Yet Ricciardo was fatally wounded mentally over the blame the team laid on him for the Baku double DNF and decided his time was up at Red Bull.
With hindsight it’s easy to see the mistakes F1 drivers make in their careers, but leaving Red Bull for Alpine in 2019 was Ricciardo’s biggest mistake at that point. He had matched and beaten Verstappen and seen of the Red Bull team’s 4 time world champion Sebastian Vettel. Baku his fault or not, should’ve have been handled better by Horner and the team.
After 2 successful ears at Alpine including a P5 in the drivers’ championship in 2020, Ricciardo was lured by McLaren ton replace Carlos Sainz who was on his way to Ferrari.
The rest is woeful history for the talented and likeable Australian.
When Sainz left McLaren he remarked, “their car is very difficult to drive”. Riiciardo responded, “thanks for telling me now mate” having signed for the Woking team.
After a season and a half of struggling with the badly balanced McLaren F1 car, Riccardo is facing the sack. Zack Brown has decided its time for something new and signed Alpine’s academy driver Oscar Piastri.
The response over the treatment of the likeable Aussie driver half way through his contact has been remarkable.
ESPN’s Nate Saunders reported four teams have sounded Ricciardo out recently to “see where his head is at” and slammed McLaren for its treatment of the Aussie.
“It reflects very poorly on Brown and McLaren how they have treated Ricciardo over the past six months,” writes Saunders.
“Ricciardo, the only McLaren driver to have won an F1 race since 2012, has been the first to admit his performances have not been up to the standards he set at Red Bull and Renault but it feels as though he has been made as a scapegoat to deflect away from deeper problems at the team.”
Saunders isn’t alone in his praise for Ricciardo who is suffering tough times.
“Amid all the rumpus and pressure you have to commend Ricciardo on his grace and professionalism over these last few months,” tweeted Tom Gaymor.
“Says everything about him as a man, he is a class act and I hope he keeps smiling and doing it his way.”
Daniel Ricciardo is a proven Formula One winner and top driver. He finished P5 in the drivers’ championship for Alpine in 2020 before he joined what he thought was a progression to McLaren.
In just 18 months he has not ‘lost it’, Ricciardo just needs a team where he can be the heart and sole of the garage. He also needs a car not so on the very edge where it breaks away from the driver without notice.
Renault’s Alain Prost admitted the team loved having Ricciardo as their driver due to his positivity and professionalism. Further he scored Renault’s best results for almost a decade.
Surely it is a no brainer that Alpine recruit the scorned McLaren driver for next season. Because seriously the other options after they cocked up the Alonso/Piastri situation – are bleak indeed.