Written by Owen Bradley, Edited by Simran Kanthi
Fans of the Honey Badger, please don't kill me for the title of this article!
We all know that it has been a tough and tricky season for Daniel Ricciardo, and you could maybe even argue it's been tough and tricky for him ever since he left Red Bull.
Daniel Ricciardo left Red Bull in 2018 and seemingly did not want to end up playing second fiddle to Max Verstappen, who the team had begun to put all their attention behind. Was Ricciardo right to leave Red Bull back in 2018? Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing as we all know, and sadly, in my opinion, he never should have left Red Bull. Here's why.
Mark Webber, a nine-time Grand Prix winner, is without a doubt one of the most underrated drivers in the history of F1 and somebody, who a lot of people forget, could very much have won the 2010 World Championship. However, he was also undoubtedly the second driver at Red Bull, while Sebastian Vettel was the clear Number 1 driver and Red Bull's golden boy.
Whilst this was the case, Webber actually was able to fight for victories and even contended legitimately for the championship in 2010, down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Sure, towards the end of his career, Webber was definitely fading and Vettel was able to defeat him with some ease at times. But at least he was still in the best car, which is part of the reason that he scored 42 podiums.
It has become clear to me at least, Daniel Ricciardo tried to differ from Webber's approach, as he sensed the pattern repeating, that Red Bull were putting their focus and energy into Max Verstappen, another younger driver. However, instead of finding a move to another top team such as Ferrari, or Mercedes, Ricciardo ended up joining Renault for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Honestly, Ricciardo's switch was summed up in his very first race with Renault, as he lost his front wing and had major damage on the way down to Turn 1 at Albert Park, Australia. He would struggle to replicate any of his previous successes with Red Bull with his new team, but he did manage to grab two podiums at Imola and Nürburgring in 2020.
However, Ricciardo then decided to join McLaren for the 2021 and 2022 seasons which has been an absolute chaotic disaster. I think it's strange that he left a top team, as that team was putting their focus behind a younger driver, and then went and joined a mid-field team, doing the exact same thing (with Lando Norris)…
Ricciardo has had one highlight in his McLaren era with a spectacular victory at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix. But frankly, that isn't enough. Ricciardo agreed with McLaren to end his contract despite it running through to 2023, and now he is without a drive for 2023.
He has said recently that he expects not to be on the F1 grid in 2023 and has also ruled out driving in Indycar or NASCAR. So what's left for Daniel Ricciardo? Perhaps a reserve driver role at Mercedes or Red Bull?
It would be a wise decision to rejoin Red Bull because Red Bull's best driver-teammate partnerships have come from an older, more experienced driver matched with a younger, more aggressive driver. Think about Webber/Vettel, Ricciardo/Verstappen, Perez/Verstappen. However, at the same time, leaving Red Bull not wanting to be a Number 2 driver to then rejoin as a Number 3, it would be quite the kick in the teeth (and his teeth are incredible, wouldn't want to ruin those).
However, Red Bull could be looking for a second driver in 2024 or 2025 if (a big IF) Sergio Perez takes a dip in performance as he gets older. And if Ricciardo shows great promise, I’m sure that Red Bull would love to rekindle an old flame. Ricciardo now has to be very smart in negotiations and needs to show some real speed and motivation.
Perhaps all Danny Ric needs is a sabbatical, a year out, and come back revitalised and re-energised…unless it truly is the end for the Honey Badger?
What do you think? Will Ricciardo be able to find a drive for 2023? Should he have joined Indycar like Romain Grosjean and countless other F1 drivers? Will he be a reserve driver for Red Bull? Or is this the final season for Daniel Ricciardo in F1?
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