Drive To Survive - Daniel Ricciardo iat war with McLaren
Daniel Ricciardo is In A Drive To Survive His McLaren Contract
Formula One

Daniel Ricciardo’s time at McLaren is coming to an end, just as the former Red Bull driver enters his second season with the Surrey-based squad. Ricciardo struggled to adapt to the McLaren MCL35 despite winning the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, McLaren’s first win since 2012. Lando Norris marginally outperformed his venerated teammate last season and is doing so again in 2022. But the gap between the two drivers is growing. Of the seven races contested thus far in 2022, Lando Norris has out-qualified Ricciardo six times and on some occasions by a considerable margin in terms of single lap pace. Norris has 48 points to his name while Ricciardo has collected 11 points. McLaren expected better, but no one expects more than Ricciardo himself.

Clearly, Ricciardo is struggling while Lando Norris is becoming stronger, every year and at every race. Why is Lando Norris extracting more out of his MCL36 than Ricciardo is able to? Both McLaren and Ricciardo need to get their heads together and work out what the issue is.  However, it seems McLaren boss Zak Brown is keen on resolving the Ricciardo issue by dispensing with the Australian’s service, sooner rather than later.

Ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix Brown sent a cryptic warning shot, saying there were “mechanisms” to release Ricciardo from his current contract. Riccardo’s three-year McLaren contract is worth circa $15M per year. During a media interview Brown said:

Daniel Ricciardo in drive to survive his McLaren Contract

“I think he showed in Monza [last year] he can win races. We also need to develop our race car; it’s not capable of winning races. But we’d like to see him further up the grid.

“I spoke with Daniel about it. We’re not getting the results that we both hoped for, but we’re both going to continue to push.

“I don’t want to get into the contract, but there are mechanisms in which we’re committed to each other, and mechanisms in which we’re not.

“And we’ll see how things develop and what he wants to do. And then we’ve got our testing program ramping up, but we’re in no rush.”

Ricciardo is a 7-times Grand Prix winner, with multiple podium finishes to his name. Perhaps Brown is trying to motivate his driver with a dose of tough-love. However, openly talking about contract clauses hints there is a lot of tumult towards Ricciardo in the McLaren boardroom. More than likely Brown is uncomfortably propping up unrest and is probably being pushed by McLaren’s investors to get rid of Riccardo as soon as possible.

It may well be the case that Brown personally wants to retain Riccardo to the end of his contract come what may. Ricciardo’s form could suddenly improve. Nevertheless, this is an example of the harsh realities of Formula One. Drivers come and go, teams come, team personnel come and go and so do investors. So who will go first Ricciardo or the demands of McLaren’s investors?

It is quite an easy equation to work out. Nevertheless, to publicly discuss a driver’s contract and “mechanisms” for removal is a form of constructive dismissal. The relationship between driver and team is now damaged. For Ricciardo, this is now turning into a drive to survive to the end of the season.

Drive To Survive - Daniel Ricciardo iat war with McLaren
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