Horner: Ricciardo’s exit timing ‘spectacularly bad’

Jamie Woodhouse
Daniel Ricciardo in Red Bull race suit. Abu Dhabi November 2018.

Daniel Ricciardo, in his Red Bull race suit, looks at his helmet. Abu Dhabi November 2018.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Daniel Ricciardo got the timing of his decision to leave the team all wrong.

Ricciardo, a product of Red Bull’s junior programme, first appeared in Formula 1 with backmarkers HRT, debuting at the 2011 British Grand Prix, before securing a seat with Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso for 2012.

His promotion to the main Red Bull team came in 2014, Ricciardo finishing 71 points ahead of four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel that season.

But having spent just over a season with Daniil Kvyat as his team-mate following Vettel’s move to Ferrari, Max Verstappen then arrived – a partnership that produced its fair share of tension before Ricciardo exited the team at the end of 2018.

According to Horner, Ricciardo left not only because he saw signs of becoming the second driver to Verstappen but also because he had doubts over the Honda engine Red Bull were to use from 2019.

That partnership came good though, Verstappen clinching the 2021 Drivers’ Championship, leading Horner to suggest Ricciardo had picked a terrible time to leave Red Bull.

“Daniel could see Max in the ascendancy and he didn’t want to become the second driver,” Horner told The Weekend Australian.

“His timing was spectacularly bad because obviously he had doubts about the Honda engine and then [Honda] went on to prove it was a competitive power unit and a race-winning package.’’

Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren during the Saudi Arabian GP. Jeddah March 2022.
Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren goes over a kerb during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Jeddah March 2022.

Despite Ricciardo having had “stratospheric” Red Bull offers in front of him, as Horner termed it, the Australian instead made a surprise move to Renault which produced only two podium finishes before he switched to McLaren for 2021.

And while Ricciardo added to his seven race victories at Red Bull by winning the 2021 Italian Grand Prix with McLaren, he has rarely competed for wins outside of that achievement.

On top of that, the first half of 2021 was spent addressing a major deficit to his team-mate Lando Norris.

At the start of 2022, McLaren have struggled with the new regulations and find themselves no longer fighting at the head of the midfield, with Ricciardo failing to score a point at the first round in Bahrain before being forced to retire from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Horner though maintains Ricciardo is a driver with “great natural abilities” and a “big personality”, so is sad to see things have not worked out for him as had been intended.

 

“Daniel is a great driver and we were sad when he decided to leave the team here,’’ said Horner.

“And it’s unfortunately not worked out for him the way he would have liked.

“He’s got great natural abilities, a big personality. Of course, now he’s got a competitive team-mate as well. It’s given him a hard time and that’s tough for him.’’

 

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