Zak Brown On Firing Daniel Ricciardo: “It’s Kind Of Nobody’s Fault”

Credit: David Davies/Getty Images

Zak Brown, the CEO of McLaren Racing, said that firing Daniel Ricciardo was one of the “toughest thing[s]” he’s had to do in motorsport. In saying that, it didn’t stop him and the team from signing fellow Australian, Oscar Piastri, to McLaren for 2023.

In an interview with Kayo Sports, during the Bathurst 1000, Brown explained that he “tried everything” to keep Ricciardo and improve his results but nothing was working and time had run out.

“Ultimately, we weren’t getting the results that we need and we’re a year-and-a-half into this,” said Brown.

“We’ve all tried extremely hard, we love Daniel, he’s great to work with and continues to be great to work with. But we’re in the results business and the results weren’t coming and we felt we tried everything. We don’t really know why it didn’t click, it’s kind of nobody’s fault. We gave it our best. He gave it his best… we just kind of ran out of things to try.”

Brown explained that he is a huge Ricciardo fan and had tried to sign the driver in 2018 when he left Red Bull. He was disappointed when Ricciardo signed to Renault for two years, but eventually got his man in 2021, only to be disappointed again.

Ricciardo has struggled with McLaren since joining with the exception of his win in Imola in 2021. 2022 has not been any better as he has been well and truly beaten by his teammate, Lando Norris. Ricciardo has 29 points in the Drivers’ Championship compared to Norris’ 101 points.

When asked what it’s been like to watch the Australian struggle at his team, Brown responded, “I’ve hated it.”

“I tried to get Daniel before he went to Renault, so this was years in the making. I’m a huge Daniel fan. I’m still a huge Daniel fan and that’ll never change.

“I asked him if he wanted to drive for us in the IndyCar or Formula E… I’d love to keep Daniel in the family but he’s still very focused on Formula One, which I get, it’s the pinnacle of motorsports. I’d love to race with him again.”

Daniel Ricciardo pouring champagne into Zak Brown's mouth at Imola 2021 | Credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images

No doubt Brown wanted to keep Ricciardo in McLaren colours as then he wouldn’t have had to make a huge $20m payout to Ricciardo. Brown admitted earlier this year that he wished he put “performance protections” in Ricciardo’s contract to avoid this situation.

While Brown admits it was “probably the toughest thing I’ve had in my time in motorsports, it wasn’t pleasant, not fun,” he knows that this sport isn’t about doing friends favours.

“But my job, along with [McLaren team principal] Andreas [Seidl], is to make the tough decisions and because we didn’t really see progress happening, it was like, ‘Well I think we just need to make a change for both of our sakes and hopefully get him in the situation where he can be competitive again and in a Formula One car wherever he ends up racing,’ but [it’s been] a huge disappointment.”

It may be heartbreaking to see Daniel Ricciardo leave the grid in 2023, you cannot argue with results (or lack thereof). This is the pinnacle of motorsports and millions of dollars are on the line, teams can’t afford a driver who isn’t delivering as where each team finishes in the standings determines how much prize money they receive at the end of the season. One place could mean a difference of millions of dollars.

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