Zak Brown fires back at being ‘judged’ over Daniel Ricciardo decision

Daniel Ricciardo was dropped by McLaren at the end of 2022 despite still having a year remaining on his contract.

Daniel Ricciardo’s two-year spell at McLaren will always be remembered sadly, as an unsuccessful one, with his victory at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix having been by a country mile the duo’s best moment together.

Ricciardo’s victory at Monza was staggeringly the team’s first since 2012, marking the end of an excruciating wait for the Woking-based side.

Many hoped that Ricciardo’s win would kickstart his relationship with the British side; however, he fell further back in 2022.

The new aerodynamic regulations haven’t been the kindest to the Aussie, who failed to support Lando Norris in the team’s fight against Alpine for fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.

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For many, seeing Ricciardo struggle has been heartbreaking, given just how incredible he was whilst racing for Red Bull.

His return to Red Bull in 2023 as their development driver seems like the perfect chance for the fan favourite to work in an environment he has previously thrived in, something that might give him the belief that he can still fight for podiums and even victories.

Speaking on Ricciardo’s time at McLaren, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown admitted that it had been a “tough year”, but that some people had made inappropriate comments regarding the duo.

“It’s been a very tough year, and it’s personal, business is personal, specifically Daniel, who’s been tremendous to work with and gave us our first win [in Brown’s tenure, at Monza],” Brown said in a McLaren video.

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“We had a lot of fun together and you know, we had a lot of frustration together that it didn’t work.

“I think the challenging part is being judged by people that aren’t really close to it, and everyone has an opinion and that’s fine, and that’s sport, I think you can’t be in sport and then not kind of have a thick skin, that the fans in the grandstands or the media are going to have their views.

“And you just need to be grounded in I know what really happened, I know the relationship that I really have with Daniel and his management and how transparent it was and how collaborative it was.

“And it wasn’t easy on anyone, but it wasn’t what a lot of people made it out to be and that’s frustrating because you kind of unfairly get accused of certain actions which you know, and he knows and those that are close to it know, that’s actually not what happened.

“But I think we’re in a high profile sport, and what makes our sport great are fans that have opinions.

“I think in today’s day and age, unfortunately, I think we’re seeing a lot of people that overstep what’s an appropriate comment, but that’s the world we live in. And I think as long as those that are close to us know what really happened, you just kind of roll with the punches.”

Ricciardo isn’t only a favourite amongst the fans; he’s a favourite amongst the paddock, something that made announcing his departure that much tougher for Brown.

Brown added that Ricciardo was always a “great spirit” in the team, but that his failure to consistently deliver results for them will remain a “great mystery”.

“It was tough, we all love Daniel,” Brown said in response to being asked how Ricciardo leaving impacted the side.

“I mean, he’s such a great spirit in the garage and on the radio and at the MTC [McLaren Technology Centre], but sometimes things don’t work out.

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“It’s kind of the great mystery because he definitely has the talent, he showed us that in Monza, he’s won eight grands prix, that’s not won because everyone got wiped out in turn one, in Monza he took the lead and he was gone.

“So frustrating for all of us but the memory of Monza is, to date, my favourite memory of my 30 years in motorsports, and I’ve got to thank Daniel for that.

“And I very much hope to see him on the grid again in Formula 1, which is his desire, and the door remains open for him to be in some McLaren in the future. If the stars aligned, I’d love to go racing with him again.”