Hill: Ricciardo has been ended by Norris at McLaren

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Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo film. Miami May 2022.

Damon Hill, the 1996 Formula 1 World Champion, has compared Daniel Ricciardo’s underperformance to his own 1999 season.

Ricciardo’s F1 career is being brought to a close after being paired with Lando Norris, according to Hill.

Ricciardo’s three-year deal with McLaren has been brought under heavy scrutiny in recent weeks due to his continued failure to match Norris over a grand prix weekend. After the Monaco weekend, McLaren have scored 59 points in 2022 – 48 of those courtesy of Norris.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown did little to assuage the speculation about Ricciardo’s future as he revealed there are “mechanisms” in Ricciardo’s contract to remove him if McLaren desire – these would presumably be performance-related clauses.

Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, Hill was asked for his thoughts on Brown’s comments.

“Zak didn’t exactly come out with this comment just because he wanted to make a statement about how he felt about Daniel Ricciardo,” he said.

“There has been a lot of conjecture and us, the media, have been asking ‘what are you going to do about Daniel Ricciardo?’

“Everyone can see he’s reached a kind of creative block somewhere with his performances. He can’t seem to unlock what he needs. I know he won Monza (in 2021) and he showed that when he gets in the lead, something else fires up. But something’s missing.”

Daniel Ricciardo lips pursed as he watches the monitor. Monaco May 2022

Hill said it has proven unfortunate for Ricciardo that he was paired with Norris as the young British driver hit his stride in F1, given the Australian driver had made some half-joking threats to Norris’ face.

“I remember when Lando was already signed at McLaren and then Daniel Ricciardo was signed,” Hill recounted.

“[Daniel] came up to us in the paddock and he said [to Norris] ‘I’m going to end you’.

“I remember thinking ‘that’s always a risky thing to say’ because it looks like the other way around – that Daniel Riccardo has been ended by Lando. He can’t crack it.

“And then the motivation goes and the questions come, and then the pressure goes back onto the person who signed him in the first place. If there are lots of resources going out to pay for a very expensive driver then inevitably he’s under an enormous amount of strain.

“Does that help someone go faster? Probably not. But what to do about it? I’m as intrigued by this as all of us.”

Hill pointed out Ricciardo’s own career trajectory recently has been quite similar to his own career ending. Hill had a sporadic year with Jordan in 1998 but showed flashes of his old brilliance as  he won that year’s Belgian Grand Prix. However, that was the last high point as his career stuttered out with a drubbing alongside Heinz-Harald Frentzen in 1999.

“As a driver, I had my last year of racing with Jordan,” he said. “I was in a similar situation, I knew I was going to stop racing. But I was 39 and knew I was coming to the end of my career. I couldn’t unlock the performance and it didn’t matter what I did.

“I just couldn’t get anything out of myself. What’s that all about? How can it suddenly disappear? Danny’s only 32, so he’s definitely got loads more to give. Where’s it gone? How do you find it? How do you make it work in that car?”