McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo may be on the verge of heading out the door, but Australian telecommunications company Optus have shown their loyalty to him.
It has not been an easy year by any stretch for Ricciardo, who has scored points just four times, while team-mate Lando Norris has ended up in the top 10 on 10 occasions in the opening 13 races of 2022.
The 33-year-old has been out-qualified 11 times this season by the Briton, and has sporadically found himself in positions to score solid points.
He has finished ahead of Norris on track three times over the course of the year so, while the obvious talent of the eight-time race winner has shone through, it continues to be a tough time for Ricciardo.
He has struggled to get to grips with the MCL36, as he had trouble acclimatising to last year’s car during his first season with the Woking-based side, although he did get their first win since 2012 in Italy last September.
There are now reports that Ricciardo going to be replaced next year, despite his insistence that he and the team plan to honour his contract, which expires at the end of next season.
“I am committed to McLaren until the end of next season and am not walking away from the sport,” he said in a social media statement.
“Appreciate it hasn’t always been easy, but who wants easy? I am working my ass off with the team to make improvements and get the car right and back at the front where it belongs.
“I still want this more than ever.”
That statement came after public criticism from CEO Zak Brown, who now is reported to have made a deal with Mark Webber to put the former F1 driver’s client, Oscar Piastri, in the car in 2023.
The 21-year-old has made alternative arrangements after growing tired of his situation as Alpine’s reserve driver, due to the fact that he was in limbo while the French side tried to secure a new contract for Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard will move to Aston Martin for 2023 to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel, and Alpine believe that they have a binding agreement to move Piastri into their car next season.
The 21-year-old disagrees, and recent reports have indicated that McLaren are ready to move Ricciardo on for Piastri to take his place.
There is good news for the former Red Bull driver though, in that Optus, with whom he partnered in 2020, have renewed their deal with him for another two years.
The company were impressed by Ricciardo’s unbridled positivity in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and he remains one of the most popular influencers on LinkedIn in Australia, so the renewal only made sense.
“We look forward to Daniel showing the global Formula 1 community exactly what has made our favourite ‘honey badger’ so formidable,” said chief marketing officer Melissa Hopkins.
“Optus believes great things can happen. Especially in times of adversity and from having the courage and commitment to say ‘yes’.”
Ricciardo has carried the Optus branded “yes” on his crash helmet since he signed with them two years ago during his Renault days.
Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer boss has suggested that the door for a Ricciardo return to Enstone might be open should Piastri replace him at McLaren.