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."
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. #F1
— Jon Will Chambers (@jonwillchambers) March 19, 2023
Yeah… Daniel Ricciardo sure was the problem when it came to McLaren… HA #SaudiArabianGP
— Stephen Perez (@SPerezReports) March 19, 2023
Already a disaster of a season for McLaren. They could use the good vibes of Daniel Ricciardo right about now. #SaudiArabianGP
— Randip Janda (@RandipJanda) March 19, 2023
Honestly. Gone off Zak Brown massively. This teams a joke! Ricciardo was lucky with his payout to get away from this shambles
— Jo Kingman (@skullsandsnaps) March 19, 2023
Daniel Ricciardo on the Red Bull’s garage in Melbourne watching the disgrace that is mclaren this year exactly like it was last year: pic.twitter.com/E8cGCZrRtZ
— b.✨ (@DANNYRICC3) March 19, 2023
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."
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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