Former Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa has advised McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo to try and put a smile back on his face as he tries to recover from a disappointing start to the 2022 season.
Ricciardo has scored points just three times in the last 12 races with the Woking side, and has been out-qualified 21 times in 29 races by team-mate Lando Norris.
While he has undoubtedly shown glimpses of recovery so far this year, he has been unable to strong together a consistent weekend.
His victory at Monza last year appears to be little consolation for a time at McLaren that, in the words of CEO Zak Brown, has “met his or our expectations,” and a crash in Monaco last weekend followed by a 13th-placed finish summed up the disappointing opening seven rounds of 2022.
The Australian has failed to score in any of the last four races, so he will head to Baku next weekend knowing that, with incremental pressure on his shoulders, he needs to get some more points on the board.
Massa partnered Fernando Alonso for four seasons at Ferrari between 2010 and 2013 after recovering from the horrible accident in Hungary in 2009 that ruled him out of the second half of the season.
Alonso out-qualified the Brazilian 59 times in 77 races, and won 11 grand prix while Massa managed eight podiums, with the double world champion establishing dominance at the Maranello side.
It led to mistakes from the now 41-year-old, and misfortune bred misfortune during his final years at Ferrari, so he understands how difficult it is to remain upbeat when things are not going your way as a racing driver.
“I think sometimes we need to see his smile again,” Massa said.
“He needs to enjoy it. I had a time at Ferrari where it was tricky. In every moment, something goes wrong and you can’t concentrate in the right way, maybe you’re not relaxed and happy.
“You need to be happy, you need to enjoy your relationship with the team. He needs to get the smile back and enjoy [racing].”
As a result of Ricciardo’s form, the names of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, Alpine reserve Oscar Piastri and IndyCar drivers Colton Herta and Patricio O’Ward have all been thrown in the hat to replace him.
There have even been indications that this may happen before the end of the 32-year-old’s contract next season, but Massa says that Ricciardo’s only concern should be finding his happy place, and the form that has won him eight races in his career.
“When you are at Daniel Ricciardo’s level, he’s an amazing driver at an unbelievable level, you cannot be worried about these talks,” added the Brazilian.
“These talks are small compared to what you can do on the track, so you need to concentrate on what you do on the track.
“Whether he has a contract for next year or not, it doesn’t matter. You need to put that inside, this is not a problem to worry [about].
“The problem is different, it’s understanding how to be happy and how to enjoy [racing].
“[He needs to] leave all of those things [aside], get back to racing and get back to happiness.”
Ricciardo’s 11 points in 2022 leave him 11th in the Drivers’ Standings, level on points with Yuki Tsunoda and just one ahead of 13th-placed Alpine driver Fernando Alonso.