F1 2022: ‘Disastrous’ decision that ruined Daniel Ricciardo, says F1’s Alan Jones

Asked by Wide World of Sports to sum up Daniel Ricciardo’s two years at McLaren, 1980 world champion Alan Jones doesn’t take long to answer.

“In a word, tragic,” he replied.

“There’s no other way to describe it.”

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Ricciardo will bow out of Formula 1 after this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, perhaps temporarily, perhaps permanently.

He has talked about taking a year off, regrouping and returning in 2024, but that is far from guaranteed. The Australian will be 34 years old next year and the fact is that his fortunes have slipped a lot during the time he was in bad shape at McLaren.

If this is to be his last race weekend, it’s a sad end to a career that held so much promise. Jack Brabham (14), Jones (12) and Mark Webber (9) are the only Australians to have won more races than Ricciardo’s eight, but the lasting memory will be his struggles at McLaren, where he simply hasn’t settled. with the car.

“I’m a bit baffled by the whole situation to be honest with you,” Jones said.

“Daniel is a very good racing driver, but I think a racing driver should be able to jump into anything and drive it.

“Some are better at it than others. But in the old days, F1 drivers were invited to drive touring cars, or sports cars, you couldn’t just jump into one and say, ‘Well, sorry, I can’t handle that. .’

“You wouldn’t last too long.”

Jones described the possibility of Ricciardo returning in 2024 as a “long shot” but admitted it was more likely now than before.

World champions Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso both took time off from their careers, but earlier this week Nico Hulkenberg was confirmed as Mick Schumacher’s replacement at Haas, Hulkenberg has not been full-time since team-mate Ricciardo in 2019.

“It’s changed a bit now, but the general consensus was that once you left Formula One it was very difficult to get back in,” said Jones, who returned to the sport in 1985 after retiring in 1981.

“But certainly it’s a bit risky.

“I don’t really know what the sabbatical is about. I don’t know if it’s about getting my mind right or a few months on the farm to freshen up, I don’t know.

“It’s something I can’t wrap my head around.”

The decision to take a year off rested with Ricciardo, who chose not to pursue a possible drive with Haas or Williams for 2023.

“I’m a little confused about it, to be honest,” Jones said.

“I have always been of the opinion that it is better to be there. Formula 1 bosses are not kids, if they see you doing a great job in a slower car and putting it in places where it really shouldn’t be, they will sit up very quickly.

“If he was going to jump to Haas or Williams and run consistently in the middle, people will think maybe they were a bit quick to write him off.

And if he does return in 2024, how will Ricciardo deal with the mental scars of his two horror years at McLaren? Sure, he won at Monza and led local Lando Norris to a 1-2 drought for the team, but by and large he was completely eclipsed by Norris.

“It depends on who he comes back with and how competitive he is,” Jones explained.

“If he comes back and hits it from the start, all of a sudden those scars disappear and your confidence is back.”

“But if he comes back and he doesn’t do as well, it could be a double whammy.”

Many will wonder how Ricciardo’s career could have played out had he not decided in 2018 to leave Red Bull for Renault. While the move was certainly good for his bank balance, it was the beginning of the end of his career.

“The investigation is a wonderful thing, and nobody knows exactly what happened,” Jones said.

“We can all speculate, but only those who were there know the whole story.”

“Maybe he thought he was being overshadowed by Max Verstappen, that he wasn’t getting his fair share of success and he was never going to get where he wanted to go as long as he was in what is perceived to be second place.”

“If he was unhappy in his own mind with the situation, it was probably a fair gamble.”

“Going from Renault to McLaren (in 2021) probably wasn’t a bad decision either, but unfortunately he’s found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

It’s a far cry from his first year at Red Bull, when he joined the team ahead of the 2014 season.

Three victories saw him labeled by the sport’s bible, Autocourse, as “undoubtedly a potential world champion”.

The yearbook ranked him as the second-best driver in the discipline that year, behind world champion Lewis Hamilton, and even noted “you couldn’t argue if Ricciardo had got the No.1 spot.”

But his time at Red Bull coincided with a period of Mercedes dominance and he was never able to tackle a real championship challenge.

“This is how Formula 1 works,” Jones explained.

“There have been great drivers who haven’t been able to show their true potential because they’re in the wrong car or because they’ve been unlucky.

“But as Bernie Ecclestone once said, ‘Who needs a driver with bad luck?’

“Chris Amon was one of the fastest drivers of all time, at one point one of the highest paid drivers, and he never won a single race, let alone a championship.

“It’s just luck that pulls sometimes.”

The harsh reality is that Ricciardo has been sacked by McLaren despite having a year left on his contract, his countryman, Oscar Piastri, is considered by many to be a star of the future.

Abu Dhabi will be Ricciardo’s 232nd Formula 1 race. If the 233rd never happens, it will be an unhappy end to a career that could have yielded much more.

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