Aussie F1 Daniel Ricciardo’s career is in limbo after the veteran driver chose to take a reserve driver role at Red Bull after the disastrous end to his time at McLaren.
The F1 world was both shocked but not surprised when McLaren decided to part ways with Ricciardo despite another year left on his contract, picking up countryman Oscar Piastri in an ugly exit from the team.
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Ricciardo never spoke poorly of his now-former team, wishing both McLaren and Piastri well for their futures as he moved back to where it all started at Red Bull.
While Ricciardo is a reserve driver and will have to be content with a marketing and simulator role on the team next season, he hasn’t given up hope of returning full-time to the grid in 2024, although his driving career now relies on results to go his way.
Not that it’ll hurt his hip pocket too much as Ricciardo is reportedly set to earn $A36 million next season with a reported 21 million euros from his McLaren payout and another 2 million euros from his Red Bull deal according to Sportune.fr.
Four years ago, Ricciardo left Red Bull after being relegated to the second driver behind who was then a promising youngster in Max Verstappen in a season where he’d had to retire eight times and the team was set to move to Honda engines, despite the manufacturer having been out of the sport for some time.
The rest is history as Ricciardo went to Renault, then McLaren and Red Bull have become the powerhouse of the sport and Verstappen a two-time champion.
Former Jordan, Red Bull and Cosworth executive Mark Gallagher has stuck the boot into Ricciardo, saying the Aussie was chasing the money as he took a deal at Renault — which was reported to be between $A49 million and $A78 million over the two seasons.
“He’s just had this slightly turbulent time, really, since he left Red Bull Racing,” Gallagher said to GP Racing Magazine.
“We all remember he took that flight where he sat on the plane thinking about, ‘should I stay at Red Bull or should I go’, and he decided, ‘I’ve got to take the plunge and go to Renault.’
“Someone close to Daniel, close to Red Bull, said to me not long afterwards, ‘he has cashed in, he has taken the money, he’s gone for the big paycheck because he knows the World Championship is not going to come to him. It’s certainly not going to come to him at Red Bull because Max is the number one. Actually, he knows it’s not going to come to him at Renault but (then-Renault team boss) Cyril Abiteboul is going to pay him a massive amount of money.’
“Why would you not take it? Because when you’re getting into your 30s and you realise that that World Championship prospect is diminishing, take the big money. Why wouldn’t you? Because that’s going to set you up forever in a day.
“Not only did he manage to get that big offer and then deliver the podium result that he and Cyril had talked about, he then got lured to McLaren with another big paycheck.
“And of course, again, why wouldn’t he take that? But it’s been a very different experience at McLaren.”
Gallagher said at the time Ricciardo left Red Bull, he was with manager Glenn Beavis before the two had a falling out which led to an out-of-court settlement to a lawsuit.
Ricciardo is now managed by sports management giants CAA and Gallagher questioned whether they had his world championship dreams at heart or were just looking for the most lucrative opportunities.
While prognosticators have long said Ricciardo was foolish to have left Red Bull, the team was in a state of flux at the time with plenty relying on the success of its partnership with Honda.
But Ricciardo, who claimed two podiums and a race win after leaving Red Bull, admitted he felt he had to take a gamble on himself.
Speaking on the F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast, Ricciardo didn’t regret the move, even when Verstappen had claimed 30 race wins and two world titles since his exit. Sergio Perez has claimed three race wins and 16 podiums and Alex Albon had another two podiums since Ricciardo’s departure.
“I don’t look at it like that, because nothing is sure. If I stayed there the last four years, could I say I would have had more podiums than I’ve had? What have I had, maybe three or something? Yeah, I’m confident to say I would have had more podiums than I’ve had,” Ricciardo said.
“But you just don’t know. Obviously at the time I felt like it was right for me. I felt like I needed a change and I needed to kind of just remove myself a bit. If I continued [at Red Bull], would that urge have grown? Would I have become, let’s say, more curious or less happy, or whatever?
“It’s not a sure thing that it would have been great if I stayed. I don’t look back and say, ‘Man, I shouldn’t have [left]’. But, of course, I can be honest with myself and say, ‘Yeah, I took a little bit of a gamble on myself’.”