The world is under no illusions that Daniel Ricciardo is struggling but a former champ has pointed out what is doing even more damage.
Daniel Ricciardo’s nightmare situation is playing out in his second season with McLaren but former world champion Jenson Button has taken aim at his boss for doing even more damage.
The Aussie has won eight races in his career and became the Australian with the most race starts earlier this year but the 32-year-old is facing an ugly exit from the sport if he can’t turn his fortunes around.
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In six races this season, Ricciardo has managed just one top 10 finish in seven races — a sixth place in Australia — and is becoming a drag on the team’s constructors championship hopes.
Another brutal 14th in qualifying and 13th in the race at Monaco did not help matters the drums beat louder for the Aussie.
McLaren is currently fourth, buoyed by Lando Norris’ 48 points this year but some 75 points behind Mercedes in third.
High hopes before the season have been dashed as Ricciardo struggles to perform in the challenging McLaren.
And every poor performance looks even worse when compared to his teammates Lando Norris, who continues to impress and is seen as a potential future world champion.
Although Ricciardo himself is under no illusions of the difficulty of keeping his place in Formula One if his current form continues, he has not been aided by the comments from his boss Zak Brown.
Last week, Brown declared Norris had a clear “edge” over Ricciardo, while the Aussie was not yet comfortable with the car.
“Short of Monza and a few races, it has not met his or our expectations of what we were expecting,” he said.
“I think all you can do is keep working hard as a team, keep communications going, keep pushing and hope that whatever is not clicking at the moment, clicks shortly.”
He followed up by saying there are elements of Ricciardo’s deal three-year deal which appear to equate to a get-out clause.
“I don’t want to get into the contract, but there are mechanisms in which we’re committed to each other, and mechanisms in which we’re not,” Brown said.
“I spoke with Daniel about it. We’re not getting the results that we both hoped for, but we’re both going to continue to push.”
Ricciardo responded to the comments, saying he had a thick-skin.
“Firstly comments, I don’t take them personal,” he said. “My skin is tanned, beautiful and also thick. No one’s going to be harder on me than myself.”
But while much of the world was quick to stick the boot in, former world champion Jenson Button said Brown’s comments had done even more damage.
“Zak is his own man and I can’t change his thoughts and what he says, but I was surprised that he came out and said that,” Button said on Sky’s Any Driven Monday.
“Everyone with the team should be protecting these drivers.
“Formula 1 is a real mental game. They all have immense skill but you don’t perform if your head is not in the right place.
“I was surprised Zak came out and said he was not meeting expectations – we all know that. But when your team principal comes out and says that, it definitely hurts. From Daniel’s response, it hurt.
“I’m hoping that they have talked since the race and they can just focus on really getting the best out of Daniel and the team around him for the rest of the year. Then we’ll see where he ends up in the future.
“It’s not an easy situation for a driver. And then everything we see – he had the incident and the engineer said, ‘is the car okay?’ And Daniel replied, ‘I’m okay’. We all pick up on that as soon as we hear Zak be kind of negative about Daniel. It just spirals out of control.”
He added: “If a team doesn’t want you driving for them, you don’t want to be there – and vice versa.”
That situation came during the second practice session when Ricciardo hit the wall.
However, it’s believed that the engineer hadn’t seen the crash when asking the question, adding: “Glad you’re okay, we’ll fix the car, don’t panic.”
Regardless, with the rhetoric surrounding Ricciardo, it was far from ideal.
However, after another woeful Monaco, the world appears to see the writing on the wall for the Aussie.
Former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve wrote: “Daniel Ricciardo’s time at McLaren is over,” in his exclusive column for Formule1.nl.
“CEO Zak Brown is now saying that there are clauses in his contract, and that means that a decision has almost been made. It’s a way to put the pressure on the driver and prepare the media.
“Ultimately, he has been a highly-paid driver who has cost the team a lot of money. He doesn’t bring in any points and he doesn’t have the speed the team needs to develop the car. So he’s just costing them money.
“It would be cheaper for them to continue paying Ricciardo’s salary, let him sit on the couch at home and put another driver in the car. It’s a harsh reality, but that’s Formula 1.”