1980 World Champion Alan Jones believes Daniel Ricciardo becoming too distracted on activities away from F1 has ultimately resulted in him not being on the grid any more.
Ricciardo is spending at least one year on the sidelines after McLaren decided to cut his contract short following two rough seasons and replace him with compatriot Oscar Piastri.
The eight-time race winner had limited options to stay on the grid for the F1 2023 season and instead chose to return “home” to Red Bull in a third driver role, effectively taking a year’s sabbatical with his Red Bull programme not being a particularly intensive one.
With Formula 1 touching down in Melbourne this week, naturally some of the conversation will turn back towards Ricciardo who will be present and on duty at his home race weekend.
And Jones, Australia’s most recent F1 World Champion, thinks Ricciardo only has himself to blame for not being in a position to potentially entertain the Aussie crowd with his on-track performance this year.
“I don’t think he even knows himself [why his form disappeared]. I just think he went off the boil,” Jones told the Herald Sun.
“Really, in my own opinion, I think he concentrated and spent a bit too much time for his activities out of the cockpit rather than in it. That’s my opinion.”
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Jones then also went on to say that he doesn’t think Ricciardo will be able to find a way back onto the grid next year now that he is on the sidelines. A problem axed F1 drivers are all too familiar with.
He added: “I don’t think he will get a drive at Red Bull unless something happens to the two current drivers [Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez].
“I can’t see him doing a Grand Prix.
“I doubt [he will be on the grid in 2024]. At the end of the day, there is probably no reason why Red Bull won’t re-sign Perez, and obviously, Verstappen.
“I can’t see anybody at Ferrari resigning or going away, so I just can’t see where he can go.
“Obviously, everybody likes to go out on a high note, and it’s just unfortunate that for whatever reason, and I don’t even think he knows himself, why his performance dropped off.
“As I said before, I just can’t see him getting back into Formula 1.”
Too simplistic to say Daniel Ricciardo suffered from distractions
Daniel Ricciardo’s larger-than-life personality means it can be very easy to fall into the trap that off-track distractions got the better of him and that is the predominant reason why he is no longer on the grid.
But the actual situation is much more complex than that. You can start to track Ricciardo’s decline as far back to when Max Verstappen quickly emerged as Red Bull’s star driver and started to put Ricciardo into the shadows.
It was that factor which triggered the butterfly effect and eventually led him to racing in McLaren colours later down the line, and crucially in a car that never suited him even if he did manage to roll back the years somewhat with a victory at Monza in 2021.
Ricciardo lost all momentum and, when you stand still in F1, you are effectively going backwards. This sport moves quick and driver stocks rise and fall in a brutal fashion.
With that in mind, Jones’ comments on Ricciardo’s chances of returning to the grid look to be pretty accurate ones. It’s hard to see where Ricciardo fits into the F1 puzzle again and with this year break to enjoy, he could easily find himself not wanting to be a part of the sport again anyway.