Ricciardo argues 2022 ‘not as bad as it always seems’
By Mat Coch
Monday 8th August, 2022 - 6:00am
There is a growing expectation that Daniel Ricciardo is set to exit McLaren at the end of the 2022 Formula 1 season.
On paper, the Australian has struggled for both consistency and results, and has been overshadowed by team-mate Lando Norris.
That follows a similar trend seen in 2021 and points to a driver-team relationship that has never worked as hoped.
Ricciardo was hired to drive the team forwards, only that has not happened.
His victory in last year’s Italian Grand Prix made up for what was otherwise a disappointing season.
There seems no hope of a similar result this year or, more the point, not hope a repeat result can save him from being elbowed aside by Oscar Piastri.
It comes after Ricciardo managed only four points finishes in the opening 13 races of 2022, and the best of those a sixth in the Australian Grand Prix.
However, he argues the results themselves don’t paint the full picture of his year to date.
“It’s one of those ones where like, everyone has their things that go on, you know, like away from the paper,” he told Speedcafe.com in the days prior to the Piastri contract saga breaking.
“Whether it’s like in Miami qualifying where we had issues and had to push then the out lap, and then the tyres are too hot, so we were never going to get through Q3, Q2, whatever it was.
“So there’s little things like that which, again, don’t just happen to me – I’m sure every driver goes through the bad times in the year.
“But it’s just a sport where for sure the paper talks, but it’s not the full story sometimes.”
Ricciardo’s 2022 has been troubled to say the least.
It began with a bout of coronavirus which eliminated him from the final pre-season test in Bahrain and left him still recovering at the opening round.
The car also suffered brake issues which significantly hampered its early performance.
There was a mechanical failure in Saudi Arabia, while contact at the start of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix (initially triggered by Ricciardo) crippled his car.
After the Spanish Grand Prix there were problems found in the MCL36 which the 33-year-old had raced, while in Monaco the team opted for a set-up which led to his practice crash.
The British Grand Prix proved a head-scratcher, but there were positive signs in Austria and again in France, where it was only through being caught in the second half of both races that saw him drop away from Norris in the final results.
Add into the mix a hotly contested midfield, in which Alpine arguably has the faster car, not to mention the likes of Alfa Romeo Sauber and Haas who have shown strong pace on occasions, and that the top six places on any given weekend can be accounted for, and any minor hiccup is heavily punished.
“Of course, I want to have a better season,” Ricciardo confessed.
“Even sometimes I catch myself; like, even Paul Ricard, I was like ‘oh, but it’s just ninth.’ You know, I was maybe not that stoked on the race.
“But then I kind of looked it over and then looked back, and it was better than it seemed.
“Ultimately, yeah, it’s still not going to get me jacked up on a Sunday night and wanting to go out and party and celebrate it.
“It’s a work in progress, but it’s not as bad as it always seems, for sure.”
Ricciardo has a valid contract for 2023 with McLaren, with the break clause understood to sit with the Australian.
It means, should he decide to stick around, it would be he in the car and not Piastri, regardless of what contract the 21-year-old may have signed.
Of course, it begs the question whether Ricciardo would want to hang around for a final year at a team where the senior management clearly doesn’t support or want him there.
There are also precious few opportunities out in the market, with Alpine and Williams the only realistic options, and the former is the better of those options.
However, Ricciardo has previously driven for the operation, having been drafted in to spearhead the team’s march to the front of the F1 grid in an eerily familiar sounding tale.
A rekindling of that relationship is most likely as, while he upset the senior management with his decision to leave, Renault CEO Luca de Meo is the only remnant from that time; Laurent Rossi (Alpine CEO) Davide Brivio (Racing Director), and Otmar Szafnauer (Team Principal), have all been appointed since.
The latter, whose job also makes him the public face of the team, has said there are no barriers to such a return.