Daniel Ricciardo has likened his Mexican Grand Prix P7 to Sebastian Vettel’s recent “phenomenal races” that have pundits and fans alike asking if he is retiring too soon.
Neither Ricciardo nor Vettel will be on the 2023 Formula 1 grid, but for very different reasons.
While the German has decided to retire from the sport, his lacklustre Austrian Grand Prix said to have been the final straw, Ricciardo has found himself without a race seat.
Midway through a disappointing second season with McLaren, the Australian and his team bosses agreed to call time on their partnership two years into his three-year deal.
The timing of that meant there were no seats available at the top teams, with Ricciardo not keen on joining Haas at the lower end of the midfield.
He responded to those suggesting a year on the sidelines would not lead to a 2024 comeback with a ‘Driver of the Day’ performance at the Mexican Grand Prix.
“I still know I can [get the job done],” he told Motorsport.com. “It’s hard when you can’t do it week in and week out.
“It’s a bit like Vettel those last few races – he did phenomenal races and then people are questioning ‘is it time to retire?'”
Vettel’s recent run of points-scoring finishes, Singapore to United States, had pundits asking if he had decided to retire too soon. The German has said no, he has made his decision and he is sticking to it.
“I think all of us can still do it on our day,” Ricciardo continued. “Obviously, it’s just the consistency for whatever reason.
“But I still love it. And I still want to get to the front.”
Consistency, though, has been sorely lacking for the Honey Badger, who has only six top-10 results in 20 races.
Sitting on 35 points, he is 76 points behind his team-mate Lando Norris.
“I guess better late than never,” Ricciardo said of his performance in Mexico.
“I’ll take it for what it is, I’ll enjoy it and appreciate we did our pace and it was awesome and whatever.
“I hope it means it will be like that the next two races. Not to be negative, I don’t even want to look ahead, I just want to take this for what it is. And hopefully we’ve learned something from it.
“Even the points finishes, even probably last year, I feel we were normally defending rather than attacking. So just to have an attacking race, and especially for me with this car to feel like I can attack a little bit more with it, it’s just a nice feeling.”
Can Daniel Ricciardo finish his McLaren days in the points?
As the saying goes, ‘one swallow doesn’t make a summer’, and one Driver of the Day-worthy performance doesn’t make a Honey Badger back in form.
After all, one race before Mexico, at the United States Grand Prix, he failed – and failed miserably.
At a race where Ricciardo comes into his own, the Texas atmosphere suiting the driver’s personality, he could not progress out of Q1 and finished second from last on the Sunday.
The Austin race was arguably the lowest point in what has already been a season without much to cheer about.
Worse still, it knocked the smile off his face as he said of his 2022 “when you think it can’t get worse, it does”.
There is probably not a single person in the paddock, aside from the Alpine team, who do not want to see Ricciardo go out on a high with points in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
However, such has been his lack of consistency and understanding of the McLaren, even a point in one of the two would be a long shot.