‘Daniel Ricciardo cashed in when swapping Red Bull for Renault in 2018’

Oliver Harden
Daniel Ricciardo with a big smile. Singapore October 2022

McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo with a big smile. Singapore October 2022

A respected Formula 1 business analyst has claimed Daniel Ricciardo ‘cashed in’ when leaving Red Bull in 2018 and has questioned the role of his management team in his demise.

Ricciardo has returned to Constructors’ Champions Red Bull as the team’s reserve driver for 2023 having lost his race seat at McLaren, after two years of struggle alongside Lando Norris.

The Australian added only one victory to his tally following his shock switch to Renault for 2019, having won seven times in a productive five-year stint at Red Bull.

Appearing on the GP Racing magazine podcast, former Jordan, Red Bull and Cosworth executive Mark Gallagher has said that Ricciardo’s move to Renault four year ago was motivated by money.

He said: “He’s just had this slightly turbulent time, really, since he left Red Bull Racing.

“We all remember he took that flight where he sat on the plane thinking about, ‘should I stay at Red Bull or should I go’, and he decided, ‘I’ve got to take the plunge and go to Renault.’

“Someone close to Daniel, close to Red Bull, said to me not long afterwards, ‘he has cashed in, he has taken the money, he’s gone for the big paycheck because he knows the World Championship is not going to come to him.’

“‘It’s certainly not going to come to him at Red Bull because Max [Verstappen] is the number one. Actually, he knows it’s not going to come to him at Renault but [Renault team boss] Cyril Abiteboul is going to pay him a massive amount of money.’

“Why would you not take it? Because when you’re getting into your 30s and you realise that that World Championship prospect is diminishing, take the big money. Why wouldn’t you? Because that’s going to set you up forever in a day.

“Not only did he manage to get that big offer and then deliver the podium result that he and Cyril had talked about, he then got lured to McLaren with another big paycheck.

“And of course, again, why wouldn’t he take that? But it’s been a very different experience at McLaren.”

Ricciardo’s switch to Renault at the beginning of 2019 came with a change of management, with the Australian embroiled in a legal dispute with his former advisor for much of that season. The two parties eventually reached a settlement.

Gallagher feels such episodes may have distracted Ricciardo from his racing and has doubts if his current management team truly have his best interests at heart.

“Zoom out even further into the big picture of his career [and] that decision to leave Red Bull,” he said.

“His advisor at the time was Glenn Beavis, who had been managing him since 2012, and then he went to Renault and there was a lawsuit because Daniel dropped Glenn and then there was a High Court case over that during 2019, his first year at Renault.

“That’s all distracting and it means you’ve got other things to worry about and you really don’t need that kind of stuff going on.

“He went from Glenn, a one-man advisor, to a massive sports management company, CAA.

“You think about the extent to which managers give you the right advice. What are managers there to do? Are managers there to maximise your income? Are managers there to maximise your career longevity? Are managers there to maximise your opportunity to get in a car that wins a World Championship for you? Where is the manager’s mindset at?

“I think during my career, both at Jordan then subsequently at Red Bull and definitely since I came out of working in F1 teams directly I had occasion to work with drivers from time to time and also to work with their managers.

“There was one World Champion who I worked with and he essentially had two management companies and he was paying a total of 30 per cent of his salary to those two management companies.

“I knew all of the people involved and none of them were looking after the driver’s best interests and I remember sitting down with him and saying, ‘you need to get a lawyer and put up an impenetrable barrier between yourself and your entire management because they’re not acting in your best interests’.

“And that was born out of naivety, it was his fault and his father influencing some of his decision making as well and so you look at all of the detail of what goes on behind the scenes and you really have to question where do all the parties actually stand in this. What is their focus?”

Despite ending McLaren’s nine-year wait for a grand prix victory at Monza in 2021, Ricciardo’s initial struggles during his first season with the team were blamed on the specific characteristics of the car.

With his form worsening under F1’s new rules in 2022, Gallagher believes the decline of Ricciardo is a stark reminder of how rapidly things can change in F1.

He added: “In Daniel’s case, he comes across as such a great guy. Clearly he’s a talented driver.

“I think Daniel is perhaps a slightly older fashioned driver, if I can put it that way. There’s a racer’s instinct there and I think, with Daniel, what you see is what you get.

“I think he does need the collective arm around him and I think coming into McLaren, he’s had quite a shock in terms of the team [being] built around Lando Norris.

“They talk about something in the DNA of the car and that actually continued from last year into this year, despite the regulation change.

“So he’s had a tough experience going from Renault into McLaren and the price is that here we are a year after that victory in Italy and he’s gone.

“It shows how quickly things turn in this business.”

Read more: Ralf foresees Mercedes vacancy if George Russell beats Lewis Hamilton again