Daniel Ricciardo had a ‘premonition that something was brewing’ prior to McLaren exit

Michelle Foster
Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren looks stressed after qualifying. Monaco May 2022

Unable to find a solution to his McLaren woes, Daniel Ricciardo had a “premonition that something was brewing” before McLaren opened the conversation that ultimately led to his departure.

Joining McLaren at the start of the 2021, much was expected from Ricciardo and his new team, both parties dreaming of race wins and a future title bid. But while he did win a race in papaya, at that season’s Italian Grand Prix, the year was largely unfulfilling of its promises.

In 2022 it was even worse, the Honey Badger struggling just to score points never mind fight for podium finishes.

After weeks of speculation and questions about his future in the media, Ricciardo says he wasn’t surprised when the conversations began with his McLaren bosses.

“A slight suspicion was already there,” he admitted to Auto Motor und Sport when asked if the split had come as a surprise. “I could see my results and wasn’t happy with them myself. And we ran out of ideas on how to change that.

“I could no longer be sure whether the contract would be fulfilled to the end. There was a premonition that something was brewing.

“The two seasons just weren’t good enough. And the team began to have more and more doubts.”

What went wrong for Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren?

Although Ricciardo has never pinpointed exactly where his struggles lay, perhaps everywhere, he had a general lack of trust in the car.

He managed just seven top-ten results this past season with a best result of P5 at the Singapore Grand Prix, scoring a total of 37 points.

It was his lowest number of points since his Toro Rosso days.

“The lack of trust is a product of many different things,” he said. “In the end, you can only compete at the highest level in this sport if you have that confidence.

“Confidence in what the car will do next. How it reacts to what I’m doing. What happens if I brake five meters later? If you don’t know the answer to every braking manoeuvre, then at some point you will lose confidence in the car.

“This has never happened to me before. I always felt part of the car. And I knew how the car reacts when the conditions change. Little fuel and fresh tyres in qualifying: I knew that you could brake five meters later without hesitation.

“For whatever reason, that wasn’t always so clear with the McLaren.”

Can Ricciardo of old be ‘reborn in another car?’

With his confidence having taken a knock over the past two seasons, the 33-year-old has opted for a reserve role at Red Bull next year rather than a race seat.

Haas were interested in signing him but at the end of the day he decided that returning to familiar turf is what he really needed with the driver hoping to be back on the grid come 2024.

But can he be ‘reborn in another car’ is the big question.

He replied: “I always thought I was a good driver. But I have to admit that this McLaren also exposed some of my weaknesses. I am not perfect. This will help me to work on myself.

“Now I have a year to think about it and work on those weaknesses. During a season, it’s incredibly difficult to immediately implement what you’ve learned. Despite all the data. You just have too much to do, travel from one race to the next and don’t have time to take an outside look at your situation.

“Sometimes it would be good to take a step away from this hamster wheel and realise: this is going wrong with me. The time off could be a win-win situation for me. But then I have to find the car in which I can do that.”

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