Former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has questioned why Alpine, or any team for that matter, would pursue Daniel Ricciardo’s signature after four “terrible” years in the sport for the Australian.
Since cutting ties with Red Bull in 2018, Ricciardo has endured four underwhelming seasons in Formula 1, currently reeling down in 14th on the drivers’ standings with 19 points.
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A couple of podium finishes at Renault in late 2020 and last year’s thrilling Monza triumph, where McLaren clinched a 1-2 finish, were lone highlights in an otherwise disappointing spell for the Perth driver.
And Ricciardo is set to face the consequences, with McLaren dumping the 33-year-old with 12 months remaining on his contract and replacing him with young compatriot Oscar Piastri.
Ricciardo only has six races left in 2022 to convince the other teams to pursue his signature, but currently there are only vacancies at Williams, Alfa Romeo, Alpine and Haas.
However, when asked if he was surprised Ricciardo was not being touted as a candidate, Villeneuve’s response was painfully blunt.
“Why would he be?” the 1997 world champion told F1 TV.
“He had two terrible years at Renault and two even more terrible years at McLaren. That’s four years. Almost half of his Formula 1 career was bad.
“Alpine have no reason to take him, especially when he’s driven there before.
“The modern cars just don’t seem to suit his driving style.
“He was impressive at Red Bull. He showed amazing overtaking manoeuvres. He was ahead of Max at the beginning. But in the end Max started to get a handle on him. Then he switched. And after the switch something seems to have happened that he never managed to get a handle on. He never recovered from that.”
A potential slip of the tongue while chatting with Mexico’s Sergio Perez following the Dutch Grand Prix may have revealed Ricciardo’s intention to take a break from F1 and return in 2024.
But Villeneuve advised against the move.
“It could make him lazy,” he explained.
“You can take a year off if you’re an Alonso, a Schumacher, if you’ve been world champion and won a lot of races, if you know in the paddock that you’ll always be at your best, no matter what season. After four bad years don’t do that.
“You take what you can get. If you have an offer to drive in Formula 1, then you take every cockpit. In public you will say, ‘You don’t want to drive for one of the back teams’, but if that’s the only contract you can get, then you’ll sign it.”
Ricciardo has been linked with Haas in several reports, but team principal Guenther Steiner played down the rumours in another blow for the Australian.
“I’ve talked to most of the potential drivers, which is my job,” he said at Monza.
“There’s nothing concrete yet, but we only want to take the smallest risks for the development of the team. You can take a big risk which is great when it works, but it’s bad when it doesn’t.
“There are none of those (experienced and technical drivers) who are currently on the market. Except maybe Daniel (Ricciardo), but his form isn’t great at the moment and we don’t know what he’s going to do. Maybe he’ll sit out a year. As I said, I talk to everyone.”
The F1 season resumes in a few weeks at the Singapore Grand Prix, with lights out scheduled for 11pm AEST on Sunday, October 2.