1997 world champion, Jacque Villeneuve, has suggested that Daniel Ricciardo does not deserve to race with Alpine next season.
The Australian is leaving McLaren at the end of the season after his performances were not deemed satisfactory by the team, and the news of his departure came after less than two years with the British side.
Ricciardo initially signed a three-year contract when he arrived at the beginning of last year, but both he and McLaren have accepted that the partnership has not worked as hoped, so they will end their relationship early.
The 33-year-old will be replaced at the Woking-based side by Alpine reserve Oscar Piastri, who turned down his promotion from the French team to replace Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard will be joining Aston Martin to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel, so Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine’s team principal, is in need of a driver to partner Esteban Ocon.
The Romanian-American has a list of 24 drivers he can choose from, one of whom is surely Ricciardo, who has been linked with a return to Enstone.
The eight-time race winner joined Alpine under their Renault guise in 2019 after leaving Red Bull at the end of 2020.
Although he did not win a race in yellow, the Aussie did score two podiums in a 2020 season during which he established himself as one of the standout drivers on the grid.
Villeneuve does not see it that way though, and he does not believe the Honey Badger should be on Szafnauer’s shortlist.
“Why would he be?” he told F1TV.
“He had two terrible years at Renault and two even more terrible years at McLaren. That’s four years, almost half of his Formula 1 career was bad.
“Alpine have no reason to take him, especially when he’s driven there before.”
The Canadian suggests that leaving Red Bull after the emergence of Max Verstappen as the number one driver, was ultimately a mistake by Ricciardo.
“The modern cars just don’t seem to suit his driving style,” explained Villeneuve.
“He was impressive at Red Bull, he showed amazing overtaking manoeuvres, he was ahead of Max at the beginning, but in the end Max started to get a handle on him.
“Then he switched, and after the switch something seems to have happened that he never managed to get a handle on. He never recovered from that.”
World champions Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher all returned to the pinnacle of motorsport having taken sabbaticals, and one of Ricciardo’s options is to sit next year out and return in 2024.
This, in Villeneuve’s eyes, will not work.
“It could make him lazy,” he reasoned.
“You can take a year off if you’re an Alonso, a Schumacher, if you’ve been world champion and won a lot of races, if you know in the paddock that you’ll always be at your best, no matter what season. After four bad years, don’t do that.”
If a contract were to materialise with the likes of Haas or Williams, the 11-time race winner advises that Ricciardo take it.
“You take what you can get, if you have an offer to drive in Formula 1, then you take every cockpit,” stated Villeneuve.
“In public you will say you don’t want to drive for one of the back teams, but if that’s the only contract you can get, then you’ll sign it.”
Ricciardo’s win in Monza last year, McLaren’s first since 2012, was one of the few highlights of his tenure with the Papaya squad.