McLaren's nightmare start to the F1 season has left fans questioning whether they made the right move to dump Daniel Ricciardo. The Aussie driver endured a tough two-year stint at the British team before it came to an end last year when he was released from the final year of his contract.
Ricciardo was replaced by countryman Oscar Piastri, with the 21-year-old tipped for great things in F1. However his debut ended in disaster at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday when he was forced to retire after just 14 laps due to mechanical issues - an all-too familiar scenario that plagued Ricciardo's time at McLaren.
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If that wasn't bad enough, Piastri's teammate Lando Norris also battled issues with his car and finished last among those to complete Sunday's race. McLaren CEO Zak Brown told Sky Sports: "Looks like (Piastri) has some sort of electrical issue, a gearbox issue on track which was electronic-related. We changed steering wheels but it didn't seem to have done the trick, so we have to diagnose what it is."
Piastri was forced to retire after a pit-stop dragged on and on, only for his crew to come to the conclusion that the issue couldn't be fixed. The Aussie was left gutted as he slumped forward in his seat and realised his race was over.
Brown later reported that Norris' car had been suffering from "a pneumatic issue", which prompted two early pit stops. The British driver eventually limped across the line last of the 17 drivers who completed the race. "It's a challenging start to the year," Brown added.
F1 fans and pundits were quick to point out that the issues plaguing McLaren were also present during Ricciardo's stint at the team. Ricciardo has since re-joined Red Bull in a reserve driver role behind Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, meaning he is unlikely to get a drive in 2023.
Daniel Ricciardo is watching this race in sheer relief right now
— Elizabeth Blackstock (@eliz_blackstock) March 5, 2023
This has to be so rewarding for Daniel to see. pic.twitter.com/W8GFOptd7u
— Vincenzo Landino (@vincenzolandino) March 5, 2023
Nice to see mclaren you know what the bed. They screwed Ricciardo over so I hope they have a miserable season
— Howard WGR (@hsimon62) March 5, 2023
Thank god Ricciardo doesn’t have to drive this car…
— Kirbz (@kirbz63_) March 5, 2023
— Chad Reed (@CRtwotwo) March 5, 2023
No different to the way it’s been for years!! But you just keep blaming the drivers. The truth is you have an inept product pure and simple!! What a joke you sacrificed Ricciardo the irony is he is the only one who has won a race in a McClaren for years!!
— Glenn Gould (@GlennGould20) March 5, 2023
— NP F1 (@F1Bobblebryce) March 5, 2023
And McLaren looks HORRIBLE
— Andrew Meschke (@meschkeatc) March 5, 2023
Daniel Ricciardo lifts the lid on woes at McLaren
Ricciardo opened up about his struggles with the McLaren car after he was dumped last year. “I think already last year during the summer break it occurred to me that I was driving very consciously, and it just wasn’t natural anymore and I was just one step behind,” he said.
“That was where I was like, 'okay, I think we’re just trying to do too much'. You only have a certain amount of energy as well - mental energy, physical, whatever. So if you’re using up a bit more mental energy maybe and trying to analyse too much, by the time you’re actually getting into the car you’re already probably a little bit fried. It kind of has a double effect, in a way.
“Did we just over-analyse our bad weekends and then just get caught up in a way where it was like, ‘Okay, we need to start driving like this or setting the car up like that’? For sure at some point we would have got a little too deep and little too lost.
“If we didn’t dive that deep, would I have killed it? I still don’t believe I would’ve killed it in this car. It certainly exposed some of my weaknesses for sure, I have to accept that. But I feel like we probably underperformed just through burying ourselves too deep in it all at times.”
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