McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has spoken out on the decision to terminate Daniel Ricciardo’s contract and replace him with Oscar Piastri.
Ricciardo was seen as a major coup at the time with a seven-time race winner coming on board not only to get immediate results, but also to mentor McLaren’s golden boy Lando Norris.
The Australian spearheaded a 1-2 in Monza in 2021 and despite achieving the team’s first victory since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, Ricciardo looks likely to be without a 2023 race seat after being replaced at McLaren by Piastri.
“You’ve got to deal with this in the way that you think is in the best interests of the team,” explained Brown.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, it wasn’t an overnight decision, it was something that we spoke with him about for many months.
“Because ultimately, I don’t think either of us got the results that we’d hoped and we felt we’d given it sufficient time [on] both sides.
“Then we came to the conclusion that for whatever reason it wasn’t working, and that we needed to make a change – which was very difficult.”
Ricciardo finished the 2021 season eighth in the drivers’ championship, 45 points behind his team-mate, and after a stuttering start to this season, Brown made the call to shuffle the pack for 2023.
It wasn’t spoken about until the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix when speculation first started about whether Ricciardo would see out the rest of his contract, or see it cut short at the end of the season.
“I think like everyone [is] bummed he won’t be on the grid, because he’s great for the sport and he wants to race,” said Brown.
Ricciardo is used to fighting for victories with Red Bull earlier in his career and therefore the Australian is programmed to win.
With the selection of seats available to 2023, it now seems growingly unlikely that Ricciardo will be on the grid in 2023.
“He probably could have driven for Williams or Haas is my guess,” added Brown.
“I’m speculating that he doesn’t want to drive for a team that’s ninth or tenth in the championship, which I understand, given his pedigree. But hopefully he’ll come back in 2024”
The pair are thought to have developed a close bond during their time together in orange however the team CEO is under no illusions that friendships don’t get you results, business is business in such a harsh and results driven sport.
“As a mate, he’s a great guy. But at the end of the day, we can’t make decisions based on who’s a mate and who’s not mate.”