McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo believes that his team anticipated too much from him when they signed him from Renault at the end of 2020.
The Australian had suffered a difficult season with an underperforming Renault car in 2019, a year after he had been in talks with McLaren over a seat for that season, but turned it down.
The French side had finished fourth in the championships, and had established themselves as the big dogs in the midfield, so he went there, only to see the Woking-based side out-perform his new team.
At the start of the delayed 2020 season though, Zak Brown came to him again, and this time the now 33-year-old could not refuse, putting pen to paper after just one round of the season in Austria.
He signed off from the Enstone-based side with two podiums in Italy and Germany, but he has not had all that much to shout about since he joined Lando Norris at McLaren.
The Australian has managed 17 points finishes since the start of last season, while Norris has achieved five podiums in that time, although it was Ricciardo who won the Italian Grand Prix with a fantastic performance.
That will be remembered for years to come as their first win since 2012, and their first one-two since 2010 as Norris finished P2.
All told though, the Briton has beaten Ricciardo 26 times in qualifying trim over the last 35 races, and currently leads him by 57 points in the Drivers’ Standings.
However, an eight-time race winner with the brilliance that Ricciardo has shown over the years does not simply disappear off the radar.
Ricciardo has been faced with a car that does not suit him over the past couple of seasons, and this has continually worked to his detriment.
When things have clicked, performances like his win in Monza have appeared, but these have sadly been few and far between.
Perhaps even less helpful has been the public criticism from Brown, but this is symptomatic of a team that expected the world from Ricciardo straight away, and were surprised when they did not get it.
“This time last year there was probably a little more head-scratching from everyone,” Ricciardo told Racer.
“I think that’s because… the truth is, I think they just expected me to get into the team and kick ass, so there was probably still some pure head-scratching, like, ‘hmm, what’s happening?’
“And that was probably overriding what needs to happen – I’m just speculating – but maybe too much energy was put into the why’s and this and that before it was, ‘what do we need to do now to make him feel better?'”
Ricciardo has recently declared that he and McLaren intend to see out the rest of his contract that expires at the end of this season, but this might be changed by the apparent deal the British team have made with Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri.
The reigning Formula 2 champion has made it clear that he will not be racing with Ricciardo’s former team next year and, if he does replace his compatriot, Ricciardo could receive as much as $21 million in severance.
There would also be a chance that the eight-time race winner might return to the team he left in 2020 if Piastri’s deal goes through.