McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has hinted at “mechanisms” through which his Formula 1 team and Daniel Ricciardo could part ways before his current contract ends, although he made it clear this was not the desired outcome.
Ricciardo, a high-profile and highly paid signing from McLaren, is under contract until the end of 2023 but has consistently struggled to match team-mate Lando Norris.
With the notable exception of winning the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, Ricciardo’s time at McLaren since joining the team last season has not lived up to what the team and driver expected.
Brown stated earlier this week that the partnership had fallen short of expectations and Ricciardo admitted ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix that it was a fair assessment.
McLaren and Ricciardo have emphasized a desire to continue working together and achieve a breakthrough that will allow him to regain the form that made him a seven-time race winner with Red Bull and which was evident when he took his eighth win, for McLaren, at Monza. last year.
Asked by The Race at Monaco if there was any doubt on McLaren’s part about the driver line-up beyond this year or if he could confirm that it would be Norris and Ricciardo again, team principal Andreas Seidl said: “We have a contract. valid. as we already said for next year, and our focus is just to make this work.”
He indicated that McLaren’s intention and preference is to keep Ricciardo in 2023, but did not rule out the growing possibility that he will need to up his game for that to happen.
While Ricciardo may have a consecutive three-year deal, the implication is that he has a performance clause of some kind to meet, an interpretation later strengthened by Brown’s comments on Friday.
Brown, who is not in Monaco but is in the Indianapolis 500 with McLaren’s IndyCar team, was asked if there is any clause under which McLaren and Ricciardo can part ways.
“I don’t want to enter into the contract [details]Brown said. “But there are mechanisms where we are committed to each other and then there are mechanisms where we are not.
“I’ve spoken to Daniel about it, we’re not getting the results we both hoped for, but we’re both going to keep pushing.
“I think he showed in Monza that he can win races. We also have to continue developing our racing car, it is not capable of winning races, but we would like to see it higher up the grid.
“We’ll just play, I don’t want to say ‘one race at a time’ because we’re not going one race at a time, but we’ll see how things develop, what he wants to do. .”
Ricciardo has looked more competitive than he was at this stage in 2021, when the McLaren MCL35M seemed like a particular mismatch for his driving style.
But he is still not at Norris’ level, as the Briton showed his worth for McLaren last weekend in Spain when he scored points despite racing with tonsillitis.
Ricciardo had a dismal Spanish GP which McLaren has attributed to a “problem” with the car that he does not want to disclose.
His attempt to recover in Monaco, where he won a race in 2018, started encouragingly with a strong first practice session, but Ricciardo went wide on his first fastest lap in FP2.
He lost the rear of the McLaren mid-corner through the chicane into the pool and then crashed on the start.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 27, 2022
“It was weird, if someone crashes there, you usually see them at the start,” Ricciardo said.
“If they take perhaps too much brake on [Turn] 14 and then lose the car. But I already started losing the car long before turn 13.
“We put too much pressure on him with some things with the setup. We had a good morning and obviously you try a few things for FP2, you try to maximize performance a little bit more.
“But we crossed the line. You don’t know until you try it, but obviously it was my first lap so I didn’t get to do much reading.
“It’s a bit embarrassing, but I’m still confident, I had a good feeling this morning, so I can recover and so can we as a team.”