Daniel Ricciardo is on the Formula 1 sidelines after his early release from his McLaren contract, but given how the car has performed so far this season, Sky F1 presenter Natalie Pinkham has said he’s “not in a bad position” to have been paid not to drive it this year.
McLaren ended Ricciardo’s contract after two seasons in which he largely lagged behind Lando Norris, having joined on a three-year deal from Renault in time for 2021.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown admitted the team had to “write a big cheque” in order for Ricciardo to not drive for them this year, with rookie Oscar Piastri taking his place alongside Norris.
But the performance of the MCL60 has not lived up to expectations so far, despite a double points finish in Australia being followed up by Norris getting into the top 10 once more in Azerbaijan.
In Miami, however, it looked as though McLaren were back at square one again, with Norris and Piastri coming home 17th and 19th respectively after Norris was shunted from behind at Turn 1 by Nyck de Vries, and Piastri suffered a brake by wire issue for the majority of the race.
This limited both of their afternoons, but Norris bemoaned the team’s “slow” pace on the day anyway, saying after the race: “The track doesn’t suit us, longer corners don’t suit us, the temperature doesn’t suit us, track surface doesn’t suit us.
“There are many different aspects of it all. No-one was slow either this weekend, maybe the AlphaTauris were the only other slow car. Everyone else was pretty quick.
“The Alfa Romeos were mega fast, Haas were mega fast. The Alpines were way quicker.
“I wouldn’t say we were that much different to where we have been, it’s just everything else was a big step forward and a lot of this is just down to car characteristic, in my opinion.”
In a discussion on the Sky Sports F1 podcast about McLaren’s troubles at the start of the season, Pinkham praised Norris for being “mature beyond his years” and helping keep morale up at the team, before reflecting on how their former driver may be feeling as he took in reserve duties a few hundred yards away on the Red Bull pit wall.
“I mean, I have to say, Daniel Ricciardo must be sitting there thinking and he’ll be frustrated, no doubt, that he is not in Formula 1 racing at the moment,” Pinkham said.
“It’s a bit of a sad picture seeing him on the pit wall, but to be paid tens of millions not to drive that car and take time out and press the reset button, and work out what you want to do with your future properly with a clear head, he’s not in a bad position now, is he?”