‘I felt for him’: Daniel Ricciardo supportive of Oscar Piastri despite awkward McLaren exit

One week on from his last race with McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo has spoken frankly on his departure from the Woking-based team.

A ninth-place finish at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix brought a premature end to the 33-year-old’s time in papaya, with his contract mutually ended one year early.

Fellow Australian Oscar Piastri will now move in as Ricciardo’s 2023 replacement at McLaren.

Although, it has come after a controversial and complicated contractual situation, with Piastri previously announced as an Alpine driver following Fernando Alonso’s decision to head to Aston Martin.

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This was quickly disputed by Piastri, who stated that he would not be driving for Alpine in the following season.

Alpine then took the matter to the Contract Recognition Board, arguing that they already had a valid contract in place.

However, McLaren were deemed to have secured a legal contract.

The move also led to speculation that Ricciardo was moved out to make room for the young prospect from Melbourne.

Despite the awkward nature of the deal, the former Red Bull and Renault driver believes no blame should be placed on Piastri, highlighting how the move was mostly coincidental.

“It was just how the chips fell,” Ricciardo told the In the Fast Lane podcast.

“He was in the situation, but it’s not like he created the situation.

“It was just a product of all these things happening and then, okay, he’s the guy, and that’s it.

“Of course [Piastri’s manager] Mark [Webber] has a job to do as well, trying to find his driver a seat.

“I get how people were like, ‘Oh, you know, doing that to another Aussie!’, and blah, blah, blah, but I certainly didn’t view it like that or take it as it seemed from the outside.

“We were all just trying to do the best we could.”

Ricciardo then went on to support the incoming Piastri, who he feels should be able to enjoy his achievement without criticism.

“I definitely felt for him,” he elaborated.

“And look, don’t get me wrong, of course my career was kind of, in a way, going tits up.

“So I was certainly very occupied with myself in trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do.

“But at the same time, I was aware of some of the comments and stuff that were going towards him.

“I felt for him … it should be the biggest moment of your life, getting into Formula 1. It’s a dream come true.

“If it can’t really be enjoyed or celebrated, it’s a bit of a shame.”

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2022 was certainly a forgettable year in F1 for Ricciardo, finishing 11th in the driver standings.

He failed to finish three races during the season and only scored points on seven occasions, with his best result coming in the form of a fifth-place finish in Singapore.

When asked if he has been able to pinpoint the factors behind his struggles, Ricciardo explained to the In the Fast Lane podcast that he got into a cycle of confusion, negativity and overanalysis.

“It’s something that I’ve certainly thought about,” he said.

“I feel that now the season has ended I’ve already slowly let it go. But I’m sure I’ll still think about it over time because it is a little bit of a – I don’t want to say a mystery – but the kind of continuous struggles I had were, at least for me, very foreign.

“We all have our bad races, but to have the amount that I did, and the level that it was at times, like a second a lap off the pace, I’d scratch my head.

“I think already last year, during the summer break, it occurred to me that I was driving very consciously. It wasn’t natural anymore. I was one step behind.

“That was where I was like, ‘I think we’re trying to do too much.'”

Ricciardo will now return to Red Bull for the 2023 F1 season as a third driver.

Notably, he made 100 race appearances for the team and scored seven of his eight Grand Prix wins with them.

He then departed Red Bull for Renault at the end of 2018, before heading to McLaren two years later. 

The 33-year-old will primarily assist the Milton-Keynes-based team with testing, simulator work and commercial activity.

This means he won’t attend every race, although it is likely he will make paddock appearances at relevant events, including the Australian Grand Prix.

For Ricciardo, the intention is still to return to the grid in 2024, but the competitive nature of the F1 grid makes that easier said than done.

However, his former boss – McLaren CEO Zak Brown – believes the Australian could put his name back in contention for a seat if he manages to feature on track next season.

“Look at what happened with [Nyck de Vries] with one good session. All of a sudden he became hot property,” Brown told Motorsport.com.

“So if one of [Sergio Perez or Max Verstappen] couldn’t race for some reason, and [Ricciardo] hopped in and all of a sudden he took that car to where it is now, it can just turn on a dime.”

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