'Deal breaker': Cold truth about Daniel Ricciardo's Ferrari 'snub'

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor
Daniel Ricciardo was never going to replace Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

As it turns out, Daniel Ricciardo probably never wanted to sign with Ferrrari in the first place.

When news broke that Sebastian Vettel was leaving Ferrari and would be replaced by Carlos Sainz, many saw it as a snub for the Australian driver.

Ricciardo instead signed with McLaren for the 2021 season in what some described as a ‘sideways’ move from Renault.

SILVER LINING: McLaren move makes perfect sense for Ricciardo

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However a number of commentators have pointed out that Ricciardo was actually never eyeing a move to Ferrari because he would have been the No.2 driver behind young gun Charles LeClerc.

Ricciardo left Red Bull for Renault when the writing was on the wall that Max Verstappen was overtaking him as their No.1.

It’s believed Ricciardo had no desire to play second fiddle to Verstappen at Red Bull, and the same would have applied with LeClerc at Ferrari.

As LeClerc has found out the hard way, Ferrari loves to prioritise their No.1 driver and isn’t afraid to burn their No.2 if it means the main man has a chance to win a grand prix.

LeClerc has been asked to let Vettel pass him on a number of occasions, something Ricciardo would have seen.

Ricciardo never likely to sign with Ferrari

As Matthew Clayton of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote: “That Ferrari elected to replace the outgoing Sebastian Vettel with 25-year-old Spaniard Carlos Sainz is little surprise, given their penchant for backing one driver to attack the world championship, and using the other to play dutiful rear-gunner.

“That Ferrari pounced on Sainz, who has just one podium finish in 102 career races, only confirms that all eggs are now in the Leclerc basket.

“Ricciardo was a square peg that was never going to fit into the round hole Ferrari wanted its second driver to slot into after Vettel's exit.

“To expect a driver of his pedigree and market value to ride shotgun for Leclerc was little more than a romantic thought for fans linking the Australian with an Italian background to a team that hasn't employed an Italian driver full-time since 1992.”

According to fellow Aussie driver Mark Webber, Vettel’s decision to leave Ferrari may have been a sign to Ricciardo that not all was right with their car.

“Deals getting done when everyone’s bored. Don’t underestimate who Sebastian gets plenty of counsel from, Bernie (Ecclestone),” Webber wrote on Twitter.

“Could it be that the red car wasn’t particularly competitive pre-season, stable regs and a future budget cap?”

Nate Saunders of ESPN says it’s more likely that Ricciardo passed on the chance to join Ferrari, rather than the other way around.

“In truth, Ferrari seemed less likely on this occasion than it might have in 2016, or even a spell in early 2018,” Saunders wrote.

“There was always a fear his role at Ferrari would likely be more akin to the one fellow Australian Mark Webber had at Red Bull alongside Vettel at the start of the 2010s.

“Like Hamilton, Ricciardo does not demand preferential treatment when signing his contracts, but not having equality is a deal breaker. At McLaren, not only will he get that, but he can be the one that team builds around.”

Daniel Ricciardo looks on before the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Ricciardo always McLaren’s No.1 choice

Former world champions McLaren had tried to sign Ricciardo in 2018, when the seven times race winner was at Red Bull mulling his options, and chief executive Zak Brown said they had “stayed close”.

Brown said he now expects Vettel, who is leaving Ferrari at the end of 2020, to retire.

“Obviously Seb's an awesome driver and a four-time champion,” the American told Sky.

“But I think we were pretty far down the path in the off-season and knew we would either land with Daniel or Carlos.

“We never really entertained anyone beyond that, and especially with Seb's late breaking news -- we were pretty far down the path at that point.”

Ricciardo's Renault finished fifth overall last year, a place behind McLaren who are switching from the French manufacturer's engines to Mercedes in 2021.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull are the only teams to have won races since Formula One started its 1.6 litre V6 turbo hybrid era in 2014.

with AAP