1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve believes that Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren career will soon come to an end due to his poor form.
Ricciardo struggled in his debut year with the Woking-based side, and managed points on just 13 occasions, and his win in Monza did little to paper over the fact that he ended the championship 45 points and two positions behind team-mate Lando Norris.
The Australian was out-qualified 15-7 last year, and was out-performed by the same score up against Norris, who has beaten him in six of the first seven qualifying sessions in 2022.
The 32-year-old has scored points just twice this season, and he described his Spanish Grand Prix as “really sad” as he finished P12 while Norris scored points despite suffering from tonsillitis.
Ricciardo came into the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend needing an upturn in form, but he crashed in the second practice session, disrupting his rhythm for the remainder of the weekend.
He was seven tenths of a second adrift of the Briton in the second qualifying session as he was eliminated on Saturday, and he ended the race P13 after his strategy in the wet conditions did not pay off.
He was one of the drivers caught in the almighty train behind Fernando Alonso, and he saw the chequered flag outside the top 10 for the fourth time this year.
The Australian has a contract until the end of the 2023 season, and McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown revealed that there are “mechanisms” that could be used to terminate the deal early.
That would suggest that the stay until 2023 is conditional on his performances this year, but he confirmed that it is a straight deal.
Villeneuve, however, believes that it might be worth McLaren paying the remainder of the 32-year-old’s contract and get someone else in the car alongside Norris.
“Daniel Ricciardo’s time at McLaren is over,” the Canadian wrote in his blog for Formule1.nl.
“CEO Zak Brown is now saying that there are clauses in his contract, and that means that a decision has almost been made. It’s a way to put the pressure on the driver and prepare the media.
“Ultimately, he has been a highly-paid driver who has cost the team a lot of money.
“He doesn’t bring in any points and he doesn’t have the speed the team needs to develop the car so he’s just costing them money.
“It would be cheaper for them to continue paying Ricciardo’s salary, let him sit on the couch at home, and put another driver in the car. It’s a harsh reality, but that’s Formula 1.”
Speaking about his race on Sunday, the former Red Bull driver lamented his difficult afternoon in the Principality.
“Certainly tricky,” Ricciardo said.
“I mean these conditions… it’s not often you drive in Monaco in the wet and I mean the wet is already a handful let alone on the tightest street circuit.
“Really we got to a point where we were slow on the extreme [wet] but to fit an inter for a few laps I thought I would have just lost more time.
“So [I] tried to ride it out until I could just ride it out until I could just put a slick on.
“We were… I mean ultimately this weekend just wasn’t a good weekend; just not really quick throughout and yeah that was the race.
“Obviously, we know Monaco, it’s so track position dependent and obviously a tough weekend to take.
“Unfortunately, I’m experienced with these, had a few of them the last couple of months.
“So I feel like I can handle them a little bit better, therefore I will continue to smile or at least try to smile but deep down obviously disappointed.
“But I’ll look at it now, debrief and whatever but just probably take a few days off – I have a few friends here – and try to just enjoy some moments away from the track and then reset for Baku.”
Ricciardo acknowledges that his mistake on Friday offset the rest of his weekend, but concedes that his pace has generally been lacking this year.
However, he has vowed to bounce back and revive the exquisite form that won him seven races with Red Bull.
“It’s tough,” explained Ricciardo.
“No mistake, Monaco, you need confidence, you need to be at one with the car and for sure if you’re not quite there then it can show on the stopwatch.
“As much as I love this place, at the core that’s what you need so it can probably exaggerate it a little bit but I’d say there is still some stuff to get on top of.
“It’s been a while now so I wish it still wasn’t the case but I think the reality is that and I think there will be some tracks where it just clicks from the first practice and we’re good, but I think I’ll expect to probably still work at it and try to keep trying!
“I won’t go down without a fight but of course I don’t wish to be fighting for 13th so [I’ll] try to get back in the points soon.”
The McLaren driver has now gone two consecutive races in Monaco without scoring a single point, having previously scored four podiums and won in 2018.
If McLaren were to drop Ricciardo midway through this year, they do have options available to them.
IndyCar driver Colton Herta is testing with the British side later this year having now won seven races in the series with Harding and Andretti, while McLaren Arrow SP driver Patricio O’Ward is on the radar having tested in December.
Failing that, Alpine reserve Oscar Piastri was ready to reserve for his compatriot in Bahrain while Ricciardo was recovering from COVID-19, and the French side seem keen to get the Formula 2 champion some experience.