Daniel Ricciardo is at a crossroads in his Formula 1 career after losing his race seat with McLaren.
After 18 months into a three-year contract, a mutual agreement was announced Wednesday to terminate the deal early. Ricciardo will leave after the remaining nine races of this season.
“Obviously, it’s not the result we wanted in terms of when I joined the team,” Ricciardo said. “This outcome wasn’t desired but as a collective, we just didn’t really get it right.
“We put in a lot of effort and tried to get through it and understand things with the car and with myself gelling with it, getting the maximum out of it, but there were just too many weekends that were a bit of a struggle.”
Andreas Seidl, the team principal, said McLaren and Ricciardo, who has become a star on Netflix’s “Drive to Survive,” “couldn’t find the magic” to make their relationship work.
In comparison with the results of his teammate Lando Norris, Ricciardo’s statistics this season are telling.
During the first 13 races, Ricciardo was 0.356 seconds slower on average in qualifying and three places lower in starting position than Norris.
He has scored a quarter as many points as has Norris, who is seventh in the drivers’ standings, five places above the driver from Australia.
“Daniel has said several times he never felt comfortable with our car, especially when it was about pushing it to the absolute limit,” Seidl said. “In the end, that was causing, from time to time, this lap time difference we have seen compared to Lando.
“At the same time, we have to acknowledge as well, Lando is an outstanding driver, so he was up against one of the best in the paddock. This led us to the decision.”
Not since his first full season in 2012 has Ricciardo emerged from the opening 13 races with as low a points total as the 19 he currently has.
The changes to the aerodynamic regulations and to the cars this year were expected to improve his performance following a difficult first year with McLaren, but that never happened.
Zak Brown, chief executive of McLaren Racing, said the move to part company with Ricciardo was the saddest decision he’d made during his time with McLaren as the driver “brought a lot to the table.” He gave the team its first win in nine years in Italy last season.
“His work ethic and positive outlook are fantastic,” Brown said. “When you have a bad day, he is very quick to bring energy to the environment.
“Then, of course, our win in Monza was awesome, being on the podium and celebrating in a tattoo parlor in the U.S. is going to be something we never forget, so there’s a tremendous amount of positive influence Daniel had on our team.”
Brown said he had spoken to Ricciardo about other opportunities inside McLaren Racing, including IndyCar.
“He’s an exceptional racing driver and any team that he drives for, it’s a privilege to have Daniel drive for you, and we do have a variety of racing activities,” he said.
“That being said, he’s very focused on Formula 1. Of course, the door will always be open here at McLaren, but I believe he has a real desire to continue in Formula 1.”
Ricciardo, who has not announced where he will drive in 2023, said he was convinced he could again succeed in Formula 1. He has won eight Grands Prix, seven with Red Bull and one for McLaren.
“The sport, I still love it,” Ricciardo said. “This hasn’t affected any of that. I still have that fire in me, that belief in my belly that I can do this at the highest level.
“This isn’t it for me, we’ll see what lies ahead.”
Ricciardo said he might even take a sabbatical and step away from motorsports entirely next season.
“If the stars don’t align and it doesn’t make perfect sense next year, and if it means taking that time off to reset or re-evaluate, if that’s the right thing to do, then I’m willing to.”