McLaren ‘far away’ from blaming Daniel Ricciardo’s struggles for missing out on P4

Michelle Foster
McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl hugs Daniel Ricciardo. Brazil November 2021

Missing out on fourth place in the standings by 14 points in a season in which one car did the bulk of the scoring, Andreas Seidl says he is “far away” from blaming Daniel Ricciardo.

2022 was, as Ricciardo put it, “not my year” with the Honey Badger struggling to understand how to merge his driving style with the McLaren MCL36 to bring in points-scoring results.

Inside the points only four times before the summer break, Ricciardo and McLaren announced that this season would be his last with the Woking team, his seat going to his compatriot Oscar Piastri for 2023.

Ricciardo was able to add another three top-tens to his tally, scoring 37 points in total, but it was a long way off the 122 that his team-mate Lando Norris scored.

Had Ricciardo been able to match his team-mate, or at least have been closer, McLaren would have beaten Alpine to fourth in the standings by a considerable margin.

But as it was he wasn’t able to, which means they didn’t beat Alpine, falling short by 14 points in the fight for an extra 10 million in prize money.

“I’m far away from just blaming the situation with Daniel for not scoring P4 this year,” team boss Seidl said after the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

“In the end I’m aware as well about my responsibility, the team’s responsibility not to get it to work together with Daniel in the way we were hoping for, despite the great commitment that was taken on Daniel’s side and on ours.

“That’s part of not scoring the points as a team that you wanted or could have scored. It’s part of the sport and that’s something that we try to address or improve for next year.”

Ricciardo, who has decided to spend a year as Red Bull’s reserve driver rather than race for Haas, ended his time – at least for now – on a high note.

He brought his McLaren home in ninth place at the Yas Marina Circuit, a valiant effort in holding off Sebastian Vettel in the closing laps.

“The entire weekend, including the farewell celebration that we had in the factory, the farewell celebration at the team barbecue on Thursday night, the three days here knowing that whatever we did was the last time together with Daniel, it was emotional,” Seidl said.

“At the same time, we made sure throughout the weekend that we kept the focus on still trying to pull off the best possible result because we wanted to keep the pressure up on Alpine.

“The last time I wished Daniel a good race on the grid was emotional, but I think it was great to see that he was pulling off a good race for us. Getting back into the points from P13 was down to a great drive together with great work from his side of the garage and the pit wall.

“I think we finished our time together on the best possible high, which was the aim after all the announcements of the summer break.”

Will Oscar Piastri make the difference next season?

Although McLaren finished only 14 points behind Alpine, it has to be said that it was the Enstone team that had the better pace for most of the season. They were, however, undone by reliability issues.

If they can resolve those issues over the winter, they have – as Ralf Schumacher said – the “potential” to get involved in the battle between the traditional top three of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

But if they don’t, then Oscar Piastri could be the key to McLaren taking fourth place.

The Aussie has been prolific in the junior ranks, winning one title after another – Formula Renault Eurocup followed by Formula 3 and then Formula 2. And he did it one year after the other, not requiring much time to adjust to the car, team or tracks.

While McLaren have been trying to downplay expectations, urging pundits and fans to give the 21-year-old time to settle in, his record says he could come out of the blocks flying.

Of course that does depend on McLaren giving him the car to fight for top tens. This year’s MCL36 was a difficult car, even Norris said he could understand Ricciardo’s troubles because the car “doesn’t give me anything I want”.

But he adapted, adjusted and acclimatised. The three As that Piastri’s record indicates he’s pretty good at doing.

Read more: Zak Brown irked by Otmar Szafnauer’s ‘very unfair’ criticism of Oscar Piastri