Daniel Ricciardo interview: ‘One minute I’m on my way out of F1, the next I’m back’

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·4-min read
Daniel Ricciardo interview: ‘One minute I’m on my way out of F1, the next I’m back’
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Daniel Ricciardo is imagining he is attached to a lie detector test and being peppered with questions.

Winding the clock back to this point last season, he supposes being asked if he can ever win another grand prix. His instinctive answer would have been ‘yes’ but, at the same time, “the lie detector would have been going crazy on me”.

Confidence was low, a proven race winner was struggling at his new McLaren team, where he was being outdriven by his younger team-mate, Lando Norris. The belief was waning. 12 months on, similar comparisons can be drawn, but the difference in his mind is Monza, the race win last season that proved a turning point and brought the belief flooding back.

Amid the 14th place in Bahrain and the 13ths in Miami and Monaco this season, Monza is the counterweight in his head that tells him he can still add to his tally of eight race wins. And while not of the proportions of Monza, there is hope that his performance at Baku last weekend can prove the turning point in 2022.

“It’s not a weekend where I’ll start spraying the champagne,” he says of his eighth place and getting the better of Norris. “But it’s definitely a weekend I’ll walk away feeling a little better. After a few rocky weekends, you have to take positives in anything you can.”

Daniel Ricciardo has not quite lived up to expectations since swapping Renault for McLaren (Getty Images)
Daniel Ricciardo has not quite lived up to expectations since swapping Renault for McLaren (Getty Images)

Prior to Baku, the team’s CEO, Zak Brown, was quoted as saying that Ricciardo had not lived up to expectations, and there were rumours the team were going through his contract to look at ways to end it prematurely (it is due to run for another season).

He smiles at such stories. “The older I get, the more reserved I am,” says the 32-year-old Australian. “I know how this sport works. Baku could be a turning point, but I don’t want to feel like we’ve found a magic bullet and we’re sweet.

“It’s funny, because after Monaco it was like, ‘okay, he’s on his way out, blah, blah, blah’. Then I get an eighth place at Baku, which is a decent enough result, and now it’s like, ‘he’s back’, and this and that. It’s funny.”

Ricciardo has held clear-the-air talks with his boss, who held his hands up to say he effectively made a mistake in one interview. And, crucially, Ricciardo says he has been reassured his place at the team is safe.

“We’ve all done that sort of thing in interviews, so it’s nothing I took to heart,” he says. “It’s fine, and in terms of him talking about me not meeting expectations, I don’t disagree with that.

“Instead, I put a positive spin on it and think people have these expectations because they think I’m good and believe in me. That negativity comes from a positive place.”

Ricciardo likes to put a positive spin on most things, an ever-smiling presence in the paddock. But Baku, he says, was the result of working on things differently in the simulator and seeing an immediate impact on the track. The hope is Montreal this weekend provides further evidence that approach is right.

He calls this a “happy track”. In 2014, it was the scene of his first grand prix victory. The last Canadian Grand Prix, in 2019, was his breakthrough moment with his former Renault team and he is aiming to add Montreal 2022 to that list of positives.

Ricciardo has generally been upstaged by younger team-mate Lando Norris (Getty Images)
Ricciardo has generally been upstaged by younger team-mate Lando Norris (Getty Images)

“I hope we’re good here and I’m more optimistic than pessimistic, but this year it’s hard to know who’ll be quick outside of Red Bull and Ferrari any weekend,” he says. “I need some good results consistently, as my time at McLaren has been a little up and down.”

He knows questions about his future and racing ability will resurface if it proves another weekend of struggle. But it is not a line of questioning that gets in his head. “It doesn’t, because I’m aware of it,” he says. “I know I’ve finished 13th and know that’s not a good result. I don’t expect anyone to say I’ve had a brilliant weekend when I’ve finished 13th. Of course, I’d love the narrative to be different.”

In terms of McLaren talking about me not meeting expectations, I don’t disagree with that

Ricciardo envisages a time where he and Norris are trading places more consistently on race day and, in his own words, “making the team nervous watching”. Having had Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel as past team-mates, he rates Norris up there with them and says their rapport is good. The only time Norris grates on him is “if he’s up on the podium and I’m 10th — that bums me out”.

But, again, he flips that on its head, thinking of the positive that the car is quick and his own time will come.

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