Ex-McLaren driver shocked Brown criticised Ricciardo as he warns he could ‘spiral out of control’

Daniel Ricciardo has struggled since his arrival at McLaren last year.

2009 world champion and former McLaren driver Jenson Button has admitted that he was somewhat bemused by the public criticism of Zak Brown for Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo has struggled since his move from Renault at the start of the 2021 season, and he has scored points just 15 times alongside Lando Norris, who has out-qualified the Australian 21 times in 29 races.

The picture looks bleak for the 32-year-old who is out of contract at the end of next year, and a failure to score points since the Imola sprint race have seen the pressure on him mount.

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Formula 1 is and has always been a cut-throat sport, an Brown indicated that there are “mechanisms” by which McLaren can end Ricciardo’s contract, a few days after he said that Ricciardo’s time at the British side thus far had not “met his or our expectations.”

The former Red Bull driver candidly said that the statement from the American was “not false,” but Button is struggling to understand why Brown would go at his driver like that in public.

“Zak is his own man and I can’t change his thoughts and what he says, but I was surprised that he came out and said that,” he said on Sky Sports’ ‘Any Driven Monday.’

“Everyone with the team should be protecting these drivers.

“Formula 1 is a real mental game. They all have immense skill but you don’t perform if your head is not in the right place.

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“I was surprised Zak came out and said he was not meeting expectations – we all know that. But when your team principal comes out and says that, it definitely hurts. From Daniel’s response, it hurt.

“I’m hoping that they have talked since the race and they can just focus on really getting the best out of Daniel and the team around him for the rest of the year. Then we’ll see where he ends up in the future.

“It’s not an easy situation for a driver. And then everything we see – he had the incident and the engineer said, ‘is the car okay?’ And Daniel replied, ‘I’m okay’. We all pick up on that as soon as we hear Zak be kind of negative about Daniel. It just spirals out of control.”

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The 42-year-old, who briefly worked with Brown in late 2016 and in 2017 when he stood in for Fernando Alonso in Monaco, warns that a contract is easily terminated if both parties lose interest.

“Daniel came into the team in a very strong position. I would say the contract is more in his favour, but there will always be clauses,” added Button.

“To be fair, if a team doesn’t want you driving for them, you don’t want to be there – and vice versa. Normally there’s an easier way out of it than just the clauses in the contract.”

Were McLaren to drop Ricciardo at the end of this season, they would not be short of options.

Alpine are keen to put reserve driver Oscar Piastri in an F1 seat in the near future, and IndyCar drivers Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta both have connections to the Woking-based side.