Formula 1 is famous for its ruthless decisions. Daniel Ricciardo was sacked by Zak Brown and McLaren midway through his 2-year contract with the team. Still, the Aussie shouldn’t take it personally given the historical accounts of how the ‘Piranha Club’ operated.
Damon Hill was sacked by Williams during the season he won the drivers’ world title for the team. The announcement was made by Frank Williams as Hill was on the verge of winning the drivers’ title for the team in 1996.
Frank Williams, the team’s founder a year later, admitted, “I probably thought at the time, almost certainly, ‘Great, great. Thanks, Damon – we have to do better. And I thought the guy we picked would do better and actually that was a serious misjudgment. for which I am responsible. »
Damon Hill remarkably became the fourth Williams driver in 9 years to win the driver’s title for the team and was then released the following season. Frank was ruthless in pursuit of the next big “thing,” but Hill was in good company. Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost were all released by Williams the year after they became F1 world champions with Williams.
Sauber’s Heinz Harald Frenzen replaced Hill the world champion in 1997 and the German proved a huge disappointment when Hill’s former team-mate Jacques Villeuve took the title.
The moral of the story is that this is not the end for Daniel Ricciardo. As they say “Form is temporary but class is permanent.”
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Daniel joined the Big Boy Red Bull team as a replacement for Mark Webber in 2014 alongside four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. The Australian dominated the former Red Bull boss and finished 4th in the drivers’ title. Vettel was 8th and on his way to Ferrari.
In 2015 Ricciardo was joined by Russian driver Daniel Kyat. Red Bull were less competitive that year and Ricciardo secured the team’s only podium in Hungary. Kvyat finished P8 in the Drivers’ Championship with Ricciardo in P9 just behind.
The following year Kvyat was dropped after 4 races and youngster Max Vertsappen was recruited by Torro Rosso. Ricciardo finished 3rd in the drivers’ championship with a victory and 3 podiums 2 places ahead of the young Verstappen.
2017 saw Ricciardo win a race for Red Bull with 7 podiums but the team was poor who was only third as a constructor. Verstappen again finished one place behind Ricciardo in the drivers’ title in P6.
Now Red Bull’s main driver for 4 seasons, Daniel Ricciardo had his toughest year for the Milan Keynes team. Following a collision with his teammate Verstappen during the fourth round of the championship which saw both cars eliminated,. Ricciardo went into a spiral.
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It appeared the team blamed him for the contact in Baku and the loss of confidence was something Ricciardo never recovered from. Rricciardo has actually scored two wins for Red Bull this season compared to 1 for Verstappen. However, the Dutchman scored 249 points at the end of the season compared to Ricciardo’s 170. It was not fatal for the Australian Red Bull driver and he had the team’s confidence to continue.
Still, Ricciardo was fatally injured due to the blame the team placed on him for Baku’s double DNF and decided his time was up at Red Bull.
Looking back, it’s easy to see the mistakes F1 drivers have made in their careers, but leaving Red Bull for Alpine in 2019 was by far Ricciardo’s biggest mistake. He had matched and beaten Verstappen and seen Sebastian Vettel, four-time world champion for the Red Bull team.
After 2 successful ears at Alpine including a P5 in the drivers’ championship in 2020, Ricciardo was seduced by McLaren to replace Carlos Sain who was on his way to Ferrari.
The rest is a sorry story for the talented and likeable Aussie.
When Sainz left McLaren he remarked, “their car is very difficult to drive”. Riiciardo sounds, “thank you for telling me now buddy” having signed for the Woking team.
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After a season and a half of struggling with the poorly balanced McLaren F1 car, Riccardo faces the sack. Zack Brown decided it was time for something new and signed Alpine academy rider Oscar Piastri.
The response to the treatment of the sympathetic Australian pilot halfway through his contact was remarkable.
ESPN’s Nate Saunders reported that four teams recently polled Ricciardo for “look where his head is” and criticized McLaren for its treatment of the Aussie.
“It reflects very badly on Brown and McLaren how they have treated Ricciardo over the past six months,” writes Saunders.
“Ricciardo, the only McLaren driver to win an F1 race since 2012, was the first to admit his performance hasn’t lived up to the standards he set at Red Bull and Renault, but we have feeling like he was made as a scapegoat to distract from the team’s deeper issues.
Saunders isn’t the only one praising Ricciardo going through tough times.
“Amid all the rowdiness and pressure, you have to congratulate Ricciardo for his grace and professionalism over the past few months,” tweeted Tom Gaymor.
“Says all about him as a man, it’s a class act and I hope he keeps smiling and doing it his way.”
Daniel Ricciardo is a confirmed Formula 1 winner and top driver. He finished P5 in the Drivers’ Championship for Alpine in 2020 before joining what he thought was a progression to McLaren.
In just 18 months he hasn’t ‘lost his mind’, Ricciardo just needs a team where he can be the heart and soul of the garage. It also needs a car not so on the edge where it breaks away from the driver without notice.
Renault’s Alain Prost admitted that the team liked having Ricciardo as a driver because of this positivity and professionalism. Additionally, it scored their best season results in nearly a decade.
It’s surely a no-brainer that Alpine is recruiting the despised McLaren driver for next season. Because seriously, the other options after they set up the Alonso/Piastri situation – are grim indeed.
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