Sebastian Vettel: McLaren failed to extract Daniel Ricciardo’s potential

Thomas Maher

McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo racing at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2022.

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel has pointedly laid the blame for Daniel Ricciardo’s problems at the feet of McLaren.

Daniel Ricciardo’s time at McLaren comes to an end at the conclusion of the 2022 season, with a “mutual agreement” seeing the two parties split up after the second year of a three-year deal.

For now, the Australian driver is without a drive in F1 for 2023, and has admitted that a sabbatical could be on the cards if he fails to find a suitable home over the remaining nine races of the year.

There’s a chance he could return to the Alpine team, whom he left at the end of the 2020 season, or a new candidate has emerged as Haas have allegedly expressed interest in signing the former Red Bull racer.

Aside from Ricciardo’s convincing victory at Monza in 2021, becoming the first McLaren race winner in almost a decade, it’s been a barren two years for the Australian as Lando Norris has dominated the partnership.

Ricciardo has never really seemed at home with the McLaren cars, despite the complete reset the 2022 regulation changes represented. It’s a situation that has some of Ricciardo’s rivals nodding their heads in understanding, with one of Ricciardo’s former team-mates laying the blame for the failures completely on McLaren.

Sebastian Vettel “empathises” with his former teammate

“Maybe I have too much empathy for a Formula 1 driver but I was very saddened hearing what’s going to happen to Daniel,” Sebastian Vettel told media in Belgium.

“I think it’s a very, very difficult situation to be in.”

Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo. Canada 2014.
Sebastian Vettel pours champagne on Daniel Ricciardo, who wins in Canada. Montreal June 2014.

The four-time World Champion was partnered up with Daniel Ricciardo for the 2014 season, Vettel’s last at Red Bull, and that was a team-mate battle that Ricciardo won – establishing his reputation as a giant-killer early on.

Eight years on, Vettel has also had to endure seasons of racing in machinery that he hasn’t quite gelled with, and he said he has no doubt Ricciardo still has the talent to shine.

“I think he’s still one of the best drivers,” he said.

“I raced against him, I had the pleasure to race against him, and the not-so-pleasurable side of getting beaten by him years ago, and I still think he has very, very much to offer.

“I think, in this regard and I don’t know the details, but I guess McLaren failed to extract the potential that he has. It’s sad to see that he’s been put in a difficult position, but I wish him all the best.

“I’m sure that, ultimately, the talent he has and the qualities he has will shine through.”

More support for Daniel Ricciardo

Max Verstappen, with whom Ricciardo raced at Red Bull between mid-2016 and the end of 2018, said he’s hopeful his former colleague will find a new home within F1.

The pair had an occasionally tense relationship as team-mates, but are known for getting along well off-track, and Verstappen said the time had come for Ricciardo to try something different.

“Sometimes a car cannot suit your driving style,” he told Sky F1.

“It’s a very tough place to be in. You have a contract, you try to turn it around, and, if it doesn’t work out, I think sometimes it is better to maybe pursue a different direction – whatever that is. If that’s within F1, I don’t know what he wants.

“But sometimes it’s better to just step out of it and try something else, but I don’t know. He’s a great guy. I think he’s shown already over time that he’s an amazing driver. He’s won these races and I hope he stays in F1, but we have to wait and see where that will be.”

Sergio Perez, who was in a similar position of being without a seat close to the end of the season after being dropped by Racing Point at the end of 2020, also offered his support for Ricciardo.

“I’ve been in that situation before and, sometimes, for people sitting back at computers or on social media, it’s very easy to judge things,” he said.

“But, for us, this is our life. This is what we want to do and we still want to be in the sport.

“I think it’s always good to sit back sometimes and just enjoy the time because, whatever comes next, it will be great. I think Daniel is in a privileged position as well in the career he’s had up to now, and I’m sure he will find the right opportunity for him.”

Meanwhile, former F1 racer John Watson has told Planet F1 that he doesn’t believe Ricciardo or Alpine will have any real interest in partnering up again, and that Ricciardo’s McLaren replacement should ask questions due to the one-sided nature of the team over the past two years.