As rumors fly that the end of Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo’s career is coming sooner rather than later, the Australian racer is trying to clear up the confusion.
“I want you to hear it from me,” Ricciardo said in a statement posted to his Instagram stories on Wednesday. “I am committed to McLaren until the end of next year and am not walking away from the sport. Appreciate it hasn’t been easy, but who wants easy!”
Ricciardo, who currently races for McLaren alongside Lando Norris, has struggled mightily in the first half of the 2022 F1 season. His highest finish so far was sixth place at the Australian Grand Prix, and he sits in 12th place in the driver standings, five spots behind his teammate, who is outperforming him in the same car, according to the F1 website.
“Norris has out qualified him nine times to two and is more than 0.3 seconds quicker on average over one lap,” the BBC reported.
Because of Ricciardo’s lackluster results, McLaren team leaders have been asked repeatedly about his future with the team. So far, team leader Zak Brown is standing by the popular Australian driver.
“Daniel is highly motivated. He has all of our support,” he said last month, according to the BBC.
Brown added that the team’s biggest concern is their car, not their driving team.
“I don’t think we’re yet giving our drivers a car that’s capable of being at the front on a regular basis. So we need to do that,” he said.
But some F1 insiders believe McLaren’s actions contradict Brown’s comments. In recent weeks, the team has been meeting with IndyCar star Colton Herta and having him test the McLaren car.
“The 22-year-old is a development driver for McLaren and has been strongly linked to a seat in F1, after coming close to signing for Alfa Romeo last September,” EuroSport reported.
The BBC reported that Williams driver Alex Albon and former F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, who currently races for Aston Martin, have also been connected to the McLaren team.
Although it’s been several years since Ricciardo was near the top of the F1 standings, he’s one of the faces of the sport, at least in the United States. His huge smile and goofy personality made him one of the stars of Netflix’s series on F1 racing, “Formula 1: Drive to Survive.”
“For most of his career, ... Daniel Ricciardo was a bit of a dark horse for all but the most passionate Formula 1 devotees. But as one of the central figures in Netflix’s Drive to Survive documentary series, his happy-go-lucky persona has charmed a wider audience and a multitude of new fans around the globe,” Men’s Journal reported earlier this year.
As Ricciardo noted in his Instagram story, his contract with McLaren ends at the end of the 2023 season.