Zak Brown hits out at unfair accusations surrounding Daniel Ricciardo exit

Jamie Woodhouse
Daniel Ricciardo climbs in his car, serious face. Austin October 2022

Daniel Ricciardo climbs in his McLaren, serious face, with his helmet on the car's nose. Austin October 2022

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown was frustrated by what he perceived to be unfair comments from some relating to the Daniel Ricciardo situation.

After a second troublesome season for Ricciardo in McLaren colours, the decision was taken to terminate his contract a year before it expired by mutual consent, with Oscar Piastri named as his successor.

There were some suggestions of tension between Brown and Ricciardo during the 2022 campaign, largely sparked by Brown admitting that the McLaren-Ricciardo partnership had failed to meet expectations.

There was also some disgruntlement in Ricciardo’s native Australia about the process to remove Ricciardo from the 2023 line-up and put Piastri in it.

Brown knows that a thick skin is needed in sport, but with the difficult decision to let Ricciardo go registering with him on a “personal” level, comments which he felt were made without full possession of the facts did serve to penetrate that armour somewhat.

Speaking in a McLaren video, Brown said: “It’s been a very tough year, and it’s personal, business is personal, specifically Daniel, who’s been tremendous to work with and gave us our first win [in Brown’s tenure, at Monza].

“We had a lot of fun together and you know, we had a lot of frustration together that it didn’t work.

“I think the challenging part is being judged by people that aren’t really close to it, and everyone has an opinion and that’s fine, and that’s sport, I think you can’t be in sport and then not kind of have a thick skin, that the fans in the grandstands or the media are going to have their views.

“And you just need to be grounded in I know what really happened, I know the relationship that I really have with Daniel and his management and how transparent it was and how collaborative it was.

“And it wasn’t easy on anyone, but it wasn’t what a lot of people made it out to be and that’s frustrating because you kind of unfairly get accused of certain actions which you know, and he knows and those that are close to it know, that’s actually not what happened.

“But I think we’re in a high profile sport, and what makes our sport great are fans that have opinions.

“I think in today’s day and age, unfortunately, I think we’re seeing a lot of people that overstep what’s an appropriate comment, but that’s the world we live in. And I think as long as those that are close to us know what really happened, you just kind of roll with the punches.”

Brown described why the McLaren-Ricciardo partnership could not work as the “great mystery”, though leaves the door open for the Aussie to become involved with McLaren again outside of driving in Formula 1.

Asked how the decision to let Ricciardo go impacted the team, Brown replied: “It was tough, we all love Daniel. I mean, he’s such a great spirit in the garage and on the radio and at the MTC [McLaren Technology Centre], but sometimes things don’t work out.

“It’s kind of the great mystery because he definitely has the talent, he showed us that in Monza, he’s won eight grands prix, that’s not won because everyone got wiped out in turn one, in Monza he took the lead and he was gone.

“So frustrating for all of us but the memory of Monza is, to date, my favourite memory of my 30 years in motorsports, and I’ve got to thank Daniel for that.

“And I very much hope to see him on the grid again in Formula 1, which is his desire, and the door remains open for him to be in some McLaren in the future. If the stars aligned, I’d love to go racing with him again.”

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