McLaren's Brown clarifies Ricciardo status for 2023


McLaren Racing boss Zak Brown has confirmed that Daniel Ricciardo will see out his three-year contract with the papaya squad, as he remains convinced the Aussie "can win us more races".

Speculation over Ricciardo's future in F1 ramped up back in May on the back of a public comment made by Brown to Sky in which the McLaren boss admitted that the Aussie hadn't fulfilled the team's expectations since his arrival in 2021.

At the time, Brown also alluded to contractual "mechanisms" that could allow for a conditional early termination of Ricciardo's contract.

Although the public comments triggered a wave of speculation, Brown has since clarified his stance, insisting his candid view had not impacted his good relationship with his driver who will racing for McLaren in 2023.

"I know it caused a lot of ripples outside [of McLaren], but Daniel and I have a great relationship," Brown told Fox Sports Australia.

"We had dinner in London not too long after that. We are trading WhatsApps all the time.

"Someone asked me a question and I gave an honest answer. It’s the same answer Daniel has given and would give, which is that we are not where we want to be.

"I think, on the flip side, if I said ‘no, everything’s great’, I think some would say ‘really, you’re happy with 12th?’

"Of course I’m not happy with 12th. So it was just an honest answer. It wasn’t meant to be critical."

Despite Ricciardo's struggles to pull himself up the grid and inch closer to teammate Lando Norris, McLaren remains committed to supporting the efforts of last year's Italian Grand Prix winner.

"It doesn’t mean we don’t think he can win us more races," added Brown. "It doesn’t mean we are not trying unbelievably hard – quite the opposite. I know he can win us more races.

"We are trying unbelievably hard. But given his resume, and how Lando is going, do we expect him to be right next to Lando, whether that’s right in front or right behind? Yeah, and so does he. And we’ll get there.

"We are totally committed to it. I saw one of our former grand prix drivers went ‘well, we all know it, I can’t believe he said it!’ And I was like ‘well, if we all know it, what’s the big deal that I said it?’

"It wasn’t intended to be [anything] other than someone asked me a question and I gave an honest answer."

Ricciardo himself admitted that he had taken Brown's frank comments as "a roundabout way of a compliment", as it showed that McLaren knows that he can do better.

"I am my biggest critic and I don't take that stuff to heart," said the Aussie at the time. "A bit of pressure is good. It is not something I take personally or negatively."

In the wake of the speculation regarding his future, Ricciardo slightly improved his level of performance relative to Norris, and even beat the Briton in Azerbaijan.

"Maybe we need to do that a little bit more often!" joked Brown.

"He’s a fighter and his results since we’ve said that, he’s been much closer to Lando, and beaten Lando. So maybe there was something to a little bit of firing him up.

"When you look at these different athletes, you see coaches that yell at their players. It wasn’t the intended consequence, but I think you just keep pushing hard.

"We love working with him. He loves the team. We’ve seen that when we give him a car that’s capable of winning, he could win.

"As he said, last year he didn’t feel he had a good season and he still won.

"So it’s in there, we’ve just got to figure out how to unlock it, give him a car he’s more comfortable with and we’ve got a great relationship."

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