Daniel Ricciardo’s fate at McLaren will be decided by a quiet heavyweight – and he’s not the only F1 driver fighting to keep his seat. The latest TRACK TORQUE podcast names those at risk.
American Zak Brown may be the face of McLaren on race weekends, but the man who will ultimately decide Daniel Ricciardo’s future at the team is a polite, quietly-spoken German.
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl is the man Ricciardo needs to impress the most, according to The Times’ motor racing correspondent Rebecca Clancy.
“Seidl is a very nice man, you can talk to him in the paddock,” Clancy tells this week’s edition of CodeSports’ Track Torque podcast.
“But I would say (Seidl) is a bit of a silent assassin and if he goes off you, decides you’re not performing, then I think his word carries an enormous amount of weight.”
McLaren functions with Brown, the talkative CEO, front and centre of cameras on race weekends, handling the PR and marketing side of team operations.
It leaves Seidl to run the team quietly behind the scenes, in contrast to how Red Bull and Mercedes operate, with respective team principals Toto Wolff and Christian Horner the front men.
Ricciardo goes to Azerbaijan – where he won in 2017 – this weekend under heightening pressure after an underwhelming period at McLaren.
An extensive CodeSports examination of Ricciardo’s total Formula One starts revealed that his numbers up against fellow McLaren driver Lando Norris are the worst of his career head-to-head with a teammate.
Norris has beaten Ricciardo in 70 per cent of qualifying sessions and races since the start of last season.
Clancy believes that the tough love made public by Brown in Monaco, where he intimated the team had “mechanisms” to cancel Ricciardo’s deal for next year, benefits no one.
“Daniel is not getting that [support] at McLaren, certainly not from CEO Zak Brown, who has been very public about his displeasure for Danny Ric. To be honest, don’t think that works for anyone.
“Certain drivers need love. Sebastian Vettel was like this, Christian Horner always said you need an arm put round him, told that you’re special, loved, the best; just need your ego stroked.
“Vettel didn’t get that at Ferrari and Horner has said that’s why it didn’t go that well. (Vettel) got it at Red Bull, and now at Aston Martin.’
The crew on Track Torque also discussed other drivers under pressure as teams start to lock in line-ups for 2023.
Oscar Piastri remains the No.1 choice for Alpine should veteran Spaniard Fernando Alonso move on, but if an opportunity doesn’t present itself for the young Australian there, other drives may be available.
“Nicholas Latifi (Williams) is in big trouble,” Clancy says. “The rumour mill is getting louder that he might be getting replaced mid-season.”
Latifi is the only driver in 2022 not to score a point. Clancy points out the Canadian hasn’t recovered from his crash in Abu Dhabi at the end of last season, which inadvertently changed the course of the overall championship when the race had to be stopped, allowing Max Verstappen a chance to overtake Lewis Hamilton and win the drivers’ title.
“(Latifi) had death threats toward him and his family after that,” Clancy says. “His confidence has taken a dive, he’s crashing at most race weekends now.”
Others under the pump to retain their seat include Lance Stroll – though his father’s investment in Aston Martin probably saves him – Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda at Alpha Tauri, Mick Schumacher at Haas and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, who is being regularly thrashed by teammate Valtteri Bottas.
– Catch the Azerbaijan Grand Prix this weekend on Fox Sports and Kayo Sports, and catch all the latest on CodeSports, with a full preview available on Track Torque.
Originally published as Track Torque podcast: Daniel Ricciardo’s silent assassin and other F1 drivers under pressure