Oscar Piastri recouping money McLaren paid Daniel Ricciardo not to race

Michelle Foster
Oscar Piastri celebrates Sprint pole in Qatar.

Oscar Piastri celebrates Sprint pole in Qatar.

Oscar Piastri’s points haul, which could soon elevate McLaren to fourth in the standings, is helping McLaren “recoup” a significant portion of what they’re paying Daniel Ricciardo not to race says Karun Chandhok.

Struggling for form last season and scoring only a third of Lando Norris’ points, McLaren decided to part ways with Ricciardo and instead put rookie driver Piastri in the car for the 2023 season.

Although McLaren made a slow start to the campaign, the MCL60 missing pre-season targets, upgrades in Austria and Singapore have seen the team emerge as Red Bull’s nearest rival.

Oscar Piastri replaced Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren

With five podiums in three Grands Prix and a Sprint race victory for Piastri, McLaren are now 11 points behind Aston Martin in the fight to finish P4 in the Constructors’ Championship.

Chandhok puts that down to having a more evenly matched line-up with Piastri on roughly two-thirds of Norris’ points compared to Ricciardo’s one-third.

And with the Constructors’ being where the prize money lies, the former F1 driver reckons McLaren will “recoup 10 million or more” of what they paid Ricciardo not to race for them.

Speaking on the Sky F1 podcast, he said: “I don’t know what they paid Daniel Ricciardo not to drive for them this year but it’s a significant sum of money.

“The fact that they’ve got Oscar firing on all cylinders, scoring the points, and they’re going to get ahead of Aston because they have two drivers scoring points, they’re going to recoup about 10 million of what they paid Daniel not to drive.

“So that’s turned out to be a pretty smart move.”

However, his fellow podcast pundit Ted Kravitz was quick to defend Ricciardo, saying no one will ever know if he could’ve matched Piastri’s performances in the much-improved MCL60.

“For the sake of complete fairness and transparency and completeness,” said Kravitz. “I would like to see Daniel Ricciardo in this McLaren.

“To be completely fair to Daniel Ricciardo, we don’t know Karun, we’re not 100% sure that he couldn’t do the job of Oscar Piastri. So, I know it’s never going to happen, but I thought I’d say that.”

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In the midst of a season in which the likes of Red Bull and Aston Martin have seen the divide between their team-mates grow while even Ferrari are struggling to find a set-up that works for both drivers, Chandhok reckons Piastri and Norris make up one of the most balanced line-ups on the grid.

Not only are the team-mates pushing each other on the track, but the 39-year-old says they also want “similar things from the car” which is helping McLaren’s development.

“On the whole, the team’s performance, they’re pushing each other,” he said. “I think they want similar things from the car as well, which is the opposite to Ferrari where Leclerc and Sainz don’t often want the same thing for the car so it’s quite difficult in terms of set-up comparisons and car development.

“We see a similar story of Red Bull. Christian admitted in the post-race interview for the first time publicly Red Bull don’t have a two-driver line-up in the same way that McLaren do or Mercedes. So I think that’s been an absolute game-changer.

“I thought Oscar, he’s been impressive all season. Obviously, since they put the updates on in Austria it’s been more apparent. But there was always some question marks around his race pace.

“At Suzuka, he finished nearly 20 seconds behind Lando, it just went away in the race. But this weekend for the first time we didn’t have that.

“And I love that a little bit of needle where during the Grand Prix they tried to hold Lando back and said ‘Right, hold positions, team orders’. And Lando went ‘No, no, no, hang on. Why are we calling this off? Let’s carry on this fight’.

“And he had a couple of laps when he got closer to Oscar because I wonder if Oscar got a message to back off. And then Oscar picked up the pace, suddenly we saw purple sectors coming from Oscar so that for me was impressive that he matched Lando’s pace and just did a super job.”

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