At the ripe young age of 32, Daniel Ricciardo says he can’t see himself doing Formula 1 at 40, amid a below-par spell which could see him out of the sport at the age of 34!
Stats are harsh, and a glance at the Australian’s do not make for his customary big smiles but rather are frown inducing. Consider that in 158 starts with Red Bull Ricciardo scored seven Grand Prix victories but since then he has only added one victory, his splendid one at the Italian Grand Prix for McLaren.
It’s really been a barren spell for a driver that felt like a fifth wheel when Max Verstappen rose to prominence at Red Bull; the man from Perth jumped ship to Renault, where he was mediocre and perhaps there for the big bucks before his McLaren journey began.
Speaking to ESPN during the Miami Grand Prix weekend, Ricciardo was asked if he is thinking of retirement, he replied: “I think going deeper into it, no, I’m not considering it or anything. But I’m also aware that I’ve done 10, 11 years now. Am I gonna do another 10 more?
“Unless I start winning every race and it makes a lot of sense, I don’t have 10 more in me. So I’m definitely on the second part of it. I couldn’t tell you now if it’s three years, five years, whatever, but I’m aware that I can’t see myself doing this at 40.
Teamed up with precocious 22-year-old Lando Norris at Woking, Ricciardo has been sorely exposed and found wanting against a young driver that has “future F1 World Champion” written all over him.
F1 stats do not lie and they do not make good reading for Dan
Norris scored 160 points last year to finish sixth in the 2022 F1 drivers’ standings compared to Ricciardo on 115 in eighth. In this year’s championship, after five rounds, it’s 35-11.
What’s the problem? If Dan was a rookie or a young driver up against Lando it would be understandable and tolerable, but for a driver of Ricciardo’s repute and experience, it’s not a good sign. If he can’t beat or even regularly match Norris, surely his days are numbered.
This brings up the next question to a driver who left a winning organisation: was it worth it, leaving Red Bull, to seek greener pastures we know how that turned out; while Red Bull, shocked by Ricciardo’s decision to ditch a winning team for no-hopers had to hunt a new driver fast.
The Bulls spent the next few seasons as a one-man team, none of the homegrown talents was anywhere near Max as his teammate, until last year when they turned off their young driver pipeline and shopped out of the bullpen for Sergio Perez, and the rest is history…
In a nutshell, the Mexican veteran is about as good as it has been for the team since Dan departed. At least they have two blokes in the mix, rather than one in the mix and the other in the wall.
Maybe he thinks about it but maybe he doesn’t, facts are that it could be Ricciardo in Perez’s car, and be sure he would have far more than the single race had he remained a Red Bull driver had he not walked at the end of 2018.
How does a driver deal with ditching a winning F1 team for one struggling in the midfield?
Ricciardo explained: “It’s just perspective, and that changes everything. I think through doing it for so many years now, and just a bit of wisdom, maturity, and perspective, I don’t beat myself up about it anymore.
“I know when I was 27 or 28 I would say in interviews, like, I’m running out of time, I’m not world champion yet. I was a bit bitter about it then. But I’ve kind of let that element go.
“In terms of just carrying that, I don’t. I never wanted to carry anger or bitterness, like: oh man, I should have, could have, would have. It is what it is. You just waste time and energy sulking about that stuff.”
Next Sunday, Ricciardo will line up on the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix grid for his 224th F1 race and while times are tough for him, he is capable of high-end driving as we saw at Monza, but those types of drives need to happen on ever race weekend, one or two big performances a year is simply not enough.
With a posse of incredibly exciting young guns in the McLaren driver pool, even an American driver to consider, pressure will be on Ricciardo to justify his $15-miilion or so retainer.
No doubt he knows what’s expected of him and what he has to do to stay in F1 next year when he is 33, let alone until he is 40: “I’m still passionate about the sport and I still want to do good in it, so that’s it. It’s as simple as that. You just pull back [the negatives]. I’m still enjoying it.
“The results aren’t there yet but a negative attitude isn’t going to help me get those results either,” reasoned Ricciardo who knows his much closer to the end of his career in F1 than he is, to when he began.
The question is does Dan the Man aka the Honey Badger have it in him to revive his form and F1 career to become a winning force again? Or at least beat Lando.