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Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t turn things around even in Monaco
In our live stream and podcast, both of which are inherently opinion-heavy formats (just like this column), I’ve made it clear over and over throughout the entire 2021 season that it’s going to happen with Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren and that it’s just a matter of time until the Australian shows his true colors and finally puts Lando Norris in status.
My theory is that Norris is good. kind of good. The second best player (after George Russell) from the 2018 Formula 2 Gold Edition but Ricciardo, who ended Sebastian Vettel’s golden years at Red Bull in 2014, and so far was the only one to have played with Max Verstappen as a teammate. That should be enough for Norris. I believed.
Maybe it’s time to correct me.
My first meeting with Ricardo
What a great racing driver that wasn’t, Ricciardo! and sympathetic to that. In 2011, he just ran his third Formula 1 race at Hungaroring. We had an appointment for an interview on Thursday, but a faulty FIA passport meant that I, like many others, had to wait outside the gates for hours.
Back then, I was still a somewhat clumsy young journalist without a big network, I was as proud as Oscar, because somehow I managed to get Ricardo’s phone number. So I quickly texted the master and told him who I was and that our interview planned for 3pm wouldn’t work, and whether it was possible to catch up later.
When I finally got to the hospitality of HRT, Ricciardo’s number one team in Formula 1 (by the way run by a German, Colin Kolles, by the way), he just said, “Oh, that’s you!” And take time.
That would be totally out of the question today. First, because I still have a few drivers mobile numbers, but I rarely use them – because they get upset anyway and understandably appreciate it when the press department takes care of troublemakers like me first.
What role did Colin Collis play at that time
At that time, Colin Colles played a not insignificant role in the infrastructure of Red Bull. Not only did Helmut Marko strike a deal with him to help Ricciardo make his Formula 1 debut, he later also pulled the strings on emerging top designer (and potential Newey successor) James Key from Sauber to Toro Rosso at Faenza. An anecdote from the depths of Formula 1 that few people know.
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Anyway, Ricardo marked his scent. First at HRT, then in 2012 and 2013 initially at Toro Rosso, where he did not easily win a duel against Jean-Eric Vergne (now two-time Formula E champion), but did eventually win. Then he beat Vettel at Red Bull in 2014 and I’m sure most of my readers remember the rest of his career, so I don’t need to retold it.
Over the years, the Australian has given us a lot of joy. With his blazing speed, which was on the level of Verstappen on the good days (and behind on the bad days), but above all with his heartwarming swordsmanship. Ricciardo was the one who was able to brake so late and overtake it as excitingly as anyone else. Reputation almost lost again.
What happened from summer 2018?
In 2018 he looked like he was getting off the fast track in Formula 1. At the end of the season he was behind Verstappen with 170:249 points, even if he was in Monaco under the “Redemption” banner with Red Bull and a 160-hp system performance less even than his best victories (last his victories so far), it was already clear that the gap with Verstappen was increasing over time.
At the end of June 2018, Formula 1 was a guest in Austria, and shortly before the Grand Prix at Red Bull’s home, I visited Helmut Marko in his office in Graz. I interviewed him early in the morning and one of the appointments after me was Ricciardo – to talk about his contract for 2019.
Ricciardo was at his peak with two wins in Shanghai and Monte Carlo and fourth places in Montreal and Le Castellet. On the other hand, Verstappen did not win a Grand Prix and for the first time heard internal criticism that he should focus better and perhaps free himself from his father Gus.
Very good cards to extend Ricardo’s contract.
That evening in Graz I met Marko again and inquired in passing how the meeting with Ricardo had ended. The doctor smiled at that, and noted that things were looking good with the contract extension. They shook hands, but it would be very expensive. Insider advice, on the basis of which this story was created at that time.
Why didn’t Ricardo stay at Red Bull after all
Later, Ricciardo suddenly realized he might not stand a chance against the increasingly powerful Verstappen in the future and signed Cyril Abiteboul to the 2019 Renault deal.
A decision to admit to himself that it was wrong at some point when he ends his career. Firstly because he doesn’t like Abitebull, and secondly because she was the beginning of the end in the sport.
Photo gallery: Sunny Boy from Perth: Daniel Ricciardo’s career in pictures
Something must have happened to Daniel Ricciardo in the summer of 2018. Since then he’s never been the same again. Certainly, he put in some very good performances at Renault the longer he was there and won, many would say now, Monza 2021 over McLaren, ahead of Norris.
that’s right. But if we’re totally honest, he wasn’t the fastest of the McLaren drivers at Monza either.
Zac Brown’s statement is definitely not a coincidence
Ricardo, the sad truth is he doesn’t take a stab at Norris, and he hasn’t done so for nearly a year and a half now. Now McLaren CEO Zak Brown appears to be losing patience. Twice in his Indy 500 week, Brown said he expects more from the sunny boy from Australia.
When someone like Zach Brown says something like that, it’s no coincidence. So far, McLaren has always backed the (expensive) star driver. Team boss Andreas Seidl is still doing just that. Good cop, bad cop. In the end, people will think about how to terminate the alleged three-year contract, which is not one (otherwise why would Ricardo be so angry about it?) after only two years.
There are some very promising candidates that I can very well imagine in the cockpit of McLaren. Oscar Piestre is one of them, if the Alps decide to make a decision against the future and the past (Fernando Alonso). Or Pierre Gasly, whose contract with Red Bull runs until the end of 2023. Only if McLaren fails to find a good replacement will Ricciardo have a chance for the third season.
McLaren: Would Sainz have been better?
When the pandemic began in spring 2020, Sebastian Vettel’s departure from Ferrari sparked a chain reaction in the transfer market, McLaren was just a passenger rather than a pilot when Carlos Sainz switched to Ferrari. The Spaniard was eager to go to Maranello (and his dad Carlos Sr), and as we all know, travelers shouldn’t be stopped.
I think McLaren allowed that at the time because they felt they would get a better driver as Ricciardo’s replacement. But two years under Abiteboul at Renault seem to have done something for him. To this day, Ricciardo is a shadow of himself and, to be honest, I don’t have the imagination to imagine how that must change in time to still be sitting at McLaren in 2023.
Too bad actually. At the time, in 2011 at the Hungaroring, I was sure that one day this young man would become the Formula 1 world champion.
This is how you can go wrong.
By the way: In the discussion forum on Motorsport-Total.com I will comment on some posts in this column between 7 and 8 pm this evening and, above all, answer any questions from members of the forum.
note: It is in the nature of things that this column reflects my self-perception. If you have a different opinion, you are welcome to discuss it with me, i.e. On my Facebook page “Formula 1 inside with Christian Nimmervoll”. There is no “breaking news” primarily from the Grand Prix circus, but above all subjective and sometimes subjective ratings of the most important behind-the-scenes developments.