There’s been no shortage of pundits ready to lay the boot into Daniel Ricciardo after a difficult couple of weeks at McLaren.
The Aussie’s optimistic start to the season came crashing down dramatically in the last fortnight of racing. A car problem dropped him out of the top 10 at the Spanish Grand Prix, while a confounding qualifying session on Monte Carlo ultimately confined him to 13th at the flag.
But Ricciardo protested in Monte Carlo that his skin is thick and that he won’t go down without a fight against his battles with the car, and his team principal, Andreas Seidl, says he remains equally committed to 32-year-old at both sides attempt to extract the best from one another.
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McLaren’s also weighed into a fight focused further up the field, with the battle over the budget cap continuing among the glitz and glamor of Monaco.
RICCIARDO BEING ‘DESTROYED’ BY NORRIS, BUT McLAREN STAYS COMMITTED
Former F1 team owner Eddie Jordan has put the torch to Daniel Ricciardo, saying he’s getting “destroyed” by Lando Norris at McLaren.
Ricciardo’s woes at the British outfit are well documented, with 2022 proving to be yet another difficult year for the Australian.
McLaren’s latest challenger is still seemingly at odds with the driving style of Ricciardo, who has only finished inside the points once in seven races.
Norris, meanwhile, has excelled, picking up points at five races to sit on 48 compared to Ricciardo’s 11.
“He’s letting races flow by, and you very seldom get a chance to claw this back,” former team boss Jordan told Channel 4.
“I think I’d be watching his career path from now on because I’m not sure how much further he can go. Lando is destroying him, mentally, physically and on the track.
“And when you have that kind of a scenario inside of a team, it gets to you. So, he needs to shake it up immediately.”
McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl came to Ricciardo’s defense after finishing 13th at the Monaco Grand Prix, pointing to difficulties in the car and technical problems as the reasons behind his rough last two races after his season appeared to start more promisingly.
“In general, Daniel says it himself, he still doesn’t feel 100 per cent with the car, especially when it’s about pushing it to the absolute limit in qualifying,” Seidl said. “He’s up against a very strong teammate as well, with Lando, and if you put both things together, that’s the gap we are sometimes seeing.
“Barcelona, in the race, it was simply not possible for Daniel to do a better pace [than 12th]. That’s something we had to analyze after the race, which we did.
“We found an issue on the car which gave us an explanation, which was important, then we learned from that.”
The team also admitted to sending him out with too aggressive a set-up during second practice in Monaco, causing him to crash on his first flying lap.
“All we can do, together with Daniel, with a commitment on both sides, is to simply keep working hard in order to find these last percentages,” Seidl said.
RED BULL WARNS OF ‘ACCOUNTING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP’
F1 giants Red Bull Racing, Ferrari and Mercedes are ramping up the pressure on the FIA to act on the budget cap, which they say is too low in the face of rapidly rising inflation to cover the costs of the 22-race season.
The cap is set at US$140 million (A$195.2m) in 2022, but inflation is running at 9 per cent, with Europe close behind on 8.1 per cent.
The regulations currently allow for indexation when the G7 inflation rate hits 3 per cent. It’s currently at 6.1 per cent, automatically triggering this provision.
Christian Horner was the first to publicly voice his concerns during the Spanish Grand Prix, telling the BBC that his team’s shortfall budget amounted to the cost of the final four races, and he suggested up to seven teams were in the same boat.
In the lavish surrounds of the Monaco Grand Prix, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto joined the chorus, imploring the governing body to intervene to prevent the teams from trying to game the system.
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“I think that there will be no way for us simply to stay below,” he said. “I’m pretty sure that at some stage we will go over.
“In the regulations there is a threshold, which is a 5 per cent. If you do not exceed the 5 percent on the top of what’s the budget cap threshold, it will be considered a minor breach.
“What’s a minor breach in case of force majeure? What will the stewards and the FIA decide on that in terms of penalties? No idea — but I don’t think there is any way for us and for many teams simply to stay within.”
Horner agreed, warning Sky Sports that “were going to end up with more people in our financial department than we have in the drawing office”.
“What we don’t want to see is that Formula 1 becomes an accounting world championship rather than a technical or sporting one,” he said.
There’s a slim majority among the teams in support of an increase — McLaren and Aston Martin also agree with a boost in line with inflation, while AlphaTauri is owned by Red Bull — but three teams are staunchly against it: Alfa Romeo, Haas and Alpine.
Alpine has already insisted that it budgeted for rising inflation, and Haas boss Guenther Steiner argued the bigger teams were simply looking for a way to boost performance by increasing development expenditure.
Alfa Romeo Fred Vasseur had a simple message for Horner and his manufacturer-backed teams.
“If we have some increase on energy or freight, the best solution is to switch off the wind tunnel to stop bringing updates every single weekend,” he said. “We are in this situation and sooner or later we will have to stop the development of the car because we will be at the limit of our budget.
“I think everybody can do the same.”
VETTEL SLAMS ‘GREEN BULL’ CRITICISM
Sebastian Vettel has taken a swipe at those at Red Bull Racing who suggested the new-look Aston Martin car was designed with stolen data from Milton Keynes.
Aston Martin launched a dramatically revised AMR22 at the Spanish Grand Prix that bore striking similarity to the current-spec RB18.
In fact it looked so similar that the FIA on its own motion launched a detailed investigation into whether the team breached any of the sport’s anti-copying rules, which were introduced after the same team was found in breach of a gray area in the IP regulations in 2020.
The governing body found no evidence of wrongdoing, but Red Bull Racing undertook an internal investigation to find out whether any data was improperly downloaded and potentially taken with the seven staff who have recently switched teams to Silverstone, including former head of aerodynamics Dan Fallows, who is now Aston Martin’s technical director.
Both Christian Horner and Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Mark insinuated that IP had been stolen — Marko even said “there is evidence that data was downloaded” — but the team hasn’t been forthcoming about any potential revelations.
Speaking at the Monaco Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel, himself a former Red Bull Racing driver, took a veiled swipe at his former bosses.
“I think it was just at some point not fair,” he said. “First of all, all the effort that went in … second, I think on a personal level to Dan Fallows, I don’t think it was fair.
“Some things that were said I think we’re not right. He’s a very good guy. I remember him from my time at Red Bull.
“Obviously, you know, he’s joined the team, he’s with us now, so I think some of the things that were said are just not right.
“I would like to hear, you know, not an apology — well, you will never hear anything, but what I mean is I think some of the things that were being said were just not fair.”
Aston Martin has scored just one point since introducing the upgrade thanks to Vettel’s 10th place in Monaco after a penalty to Esteban Ocon promoted him one place on the classification sheet.