The wisdom of hiring Daniel Ricciardo for the 2023 F1 season has been brought into question by former champion Jacques Villeneuve, who says the Australian's best days are long behind him.
Ricciardo is a free agent for next season after agreeing to an early release from his deal with McLaren, after two underwhelming seasons with the British team.
After switching to McLaren at the start of 2021 following two seasons with Renault (now known as Alpine), Ricciardo's fortunes nosedived as teammate Lando Norris has regularly outperformed him.
Despite adding to his tally of race wins with a stunning triumph for McLaren at th 2021 Italian GP, Ricciardo has generally fallen short of expectations he could be a leader for the team as they looked to re-establish themselves as an F1 championship contender alongside the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.
After falling further behind Norris in 2022, Ricciardo agreed to an early release from his contract as McLarn pursued fellow Australian driver Oscar Piastri as his replacement.
The saga has left a seat open at Alpine, Ricciardo's former team, as well as several other options including the likes of Haas and Williams.
However Villeneuve, winner of the 1997 F1 championship with Williams, said the remaining six races of the season likely wouldn't be enough for Ricciardo to prove his worth, questioning why any of the teams with a vacant seat would reach out to him at all.
“He had two terrible years at Renault and two even more terrible years at McLaren. That’s four years. Almost half of his Formula 1 career was bad," Villeneuve told F1 TV.
“Alpine have no reason to take him, especially when he’s driven there before.
“The modern cars just don’t seem to suit his driving style.
“He was impressive at Red Bull. He showed amazing overtaking manoeuvres. He was ahead of Max at the beginning. But in the end Max started to get a handle on him.
"Then he switched. And after the switch something seems to have happened that he never managed to get a handle on. He never recovered from that.”
Former champ writes off Ricciardo's hopes of F1 revival
Villeneuve wasn't done there, suggesting Ricciardo was not the calibre of driver who could take a year off from F1 and then return and recapture his form.
The Canadian champion warned a year on the sidelines could make Ricciardo 'lazy' and suggested Ricciardo wasn't in a position to be picky when it came to job offers.
“You can take a year off if you’re an Alonso, a Schumacher, if you’ve been world champion and won a lot of races, if you know in the paddock that you’ll always be at your best, no matter what season. After four bad years don’t do that.
“You take what you can get. If you have an offer to drive in Formula 1, then you take every cockpit. In public you will say, ‘You don’t want to drive for one of the back teams’, but if that’s the only contract you can get, then you’ll sign it.”
Ricciardo is well known as being one of the most instinctual drivers on the F1 grid, with his fearlessness under braking, particularly while at Red Bull, marking him out among his peers.
However his weaknesses on the technical side could not only have been part of his undoing at McLaren, but could stand in the way of him joining another team.
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said he was talking to as many drivers as possible regarding their vacant seat for 2023, but hinted that the team's desire could be for a drivers with a stronger technical understanding to help the team make the most of its limited resources in comparison to others.
“I’ve talked to most of the potential drivers, which is my job,” Steiner said last weekend.
“There’s nothing concrete yet, but we only want to take the smallest risks for the development of the team. You can take a big risk which is great when it works, but it’s bad when it doesn’t.
“There are none of those (experienced and technical drivers) who are currently on the market.
"Except maybe Daniel, but his form isn’t great at the moment and we don’t know what he’s going to do. Maybe he’ll sit out a year. As I said, I talk to everyone.”
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