Daniel Ricciardo 'smiling' as McLaren suffer 'woeful' dramas at Saudi GP

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri both struggled at the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, pictured here alongside Daniel Ricciardo.
Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri have been struggling at McLaren after Daniel Ricciardo was dumped. Image: Getty

McLaren's decision to part ways with Daniel Ricciardo has been thrust back into the spotlight after the team suffered more issues at the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix. Ricciardo struggled in his two years at McLaren before he was dumped at the end of last F1 season with one year remaining on his contract.

The British team picked up fellow Aussie Oscar Piastri instead and put him alongside Lando Norris in a pairing of young guns tipped to do big things. However it hasn't panned out particularly well in the season's first two races, with McLaren languishing in last place in the team standings on zero points.

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Piastri was forced to retire during the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix two weeks ago, while Norris finished last among drivers to complete the race. Things went slightly better in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, but they still finished 15th and 17th respectively in another disappointing showing.

Piastri had showed plenty of promise when he qualified eighth-fastest, but was plagued by more mechanical issues and was forced to pit on the opening lap. McLaren boss Zak Brown later tweeted: "Tough race after an unlucky start with damage to both cars on the opening lap.

"Made it too difficult to turn things around. But we tried hard. Oscar P15, Lando P17. Time to get our season back on track in Australia."

The fresh dramas for McLaren have once again raised questions about whether they were right to dump Ricciardo. "We’re on lap 3 and McLaren has already had two pit stops. This is insane. Again, the winner here is Daniel Ricciardo," one pundit tweeted.

Another added: "Daniel Ricciardo definitely smiling even more than usual today with that McLaren result," while a third commented: "The real winner is Daniel Ricciardo getting a load of cash out of that team before it crashed and burned. Feel bad for Piastri in many ways looking at that Alpine. Woeful."

Red Bull finish 1-2 at Saudi Arabia Grand Prix

Ricciardo has since re-joined Red Bull in a reserve driver role, biding his time behind Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. F1 commentator David Croft previously made the bold claim that he wouldn't be surprised if Ricciardo replaced Perez in 2024, but the Mexican driver's form has been way too good.

Perez won from pole on Sunday in Saudi Arabia, with Verstappen fighting from 15th on the grid to finish second in a 1-2 for Red Bull. "That safety car again tried to take the victory away from us in Jeddah, but not this time," said Perez, who started on pole last year but was caught out by a safety car deployment and ended up fourth. "I was on for victory last year so finally I got it."

Daniel Ricciardo, pictured here alongside Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
Daniel Ricciardo is Red Bull's reserve driver behind Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Oracle Red Bull Racing)

Verstappen was in second spot by the halfway mark of the 50-lap race, but couldn't haul in Perez. "It was not very easy to get through the field," Verstappen said. "Once I cleared them one by one we got in a good rhythm, and I am happy to be on the podium."

Verstappen remains top in the overall driver standings on 44 points, with Perez on 43 and Fernando Alonso on 30 after having his third-place finish stripped and then reinstated. Red Bull have 87 points in the constructors' standings, with Mercedes and Aston Martin equal in second place on 38 apiece.

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