Four-time Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel has come out in support of beleaguered Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo in a big way, suggesting that his team has failed him and not the other way around.
The German driver, who announced earlier in August that he would be retiring at the end of the 2022 season, didn’t mince his words during a press conference earlier today ahead of the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix, addressing the drama that’s seen McLaren tear up Ricciardo’s contract for 2023 in favour of bringing a new driver in. More on that here.
“Maybe I have too much empathy for [a] Formula 1 driver, but I’m very saddened by what’s happening to Daniel,” the champ said. “I think he’s still one of the best drivers… I had the pleasure to race against him, and the not-so-pleasurable side of getting beaten by him years ago, and I still think he has very, very much to offer.”
“I think, in this regard and I don’t know the details, but I guess McLaren failed to extract the potential that he has.”Sebastian Vettel
“It’s sad to see that he’s been put in a difficult position, but I wish him all the best. I’m sure that, ultimately, the talent he has and the qualities he has will shine through,” he concluded, making Ricciardo, who was in the same press conference, blush.
WATCH Sebastian Vettel address the Daniel Ricciardo drama below.
They’re remarkably strong words from Vettel – saying that it’s McLaren’s fault that Ricciardo failed to launch at the team. Perhaps he’s willing to be less guarded knowing he’s retiring next year. It also speaks volumes about the respect Seb has for Danny Ric.
Vettel and Ricciardo were teammates together at Red Bull from 2013 to 2014, when Vettel left the team he’d won his four back-to-back titles with for Ferrari, who he never really gelled with like he hoped. In that sense, Vettel knows better than anyone what Ricciardo’s going through with McLaren.
While Vettel had a famously troubled relationship with his teammate before Ricciardo, Mark Webber, Seb and Danny Ric always had a rather warm partnership. The parallels continue, too – at Red Bull, Ricciardo was the young giant-killer who humbled Vettel, in the same way that McLaren’s Lando Norris has outperformed Ricciardo.
Vettel isn’t the only driver who’s weighed in on the Daniel Ricciardo drama.
Reigning World Champion Max Verstappen, Vettel’s replacement with whom Ricciardo raced at Red Bull between 2016 and the end of 2018, has also come out in support of ‘The Honey Badger’, echoing the same sentiments as Vettel.
“Sometimes a car cannot suit your driving style,” the Dutchman told Sky Sports.
“It’s a very tough place to be in. You have a contract, you try to turn it around, and, if it doesn’t work out, I think sometimes it is better to maybe pursue a different direction – whatever that is. If that’s within F1, I don’t know what he wants.”
“He’s a great guy. I think he’s shown already over time that he’s an amazing driver. He’s won these races and I hope he stays in F1, but we have to wait and see where that will be.”Max Verstappen
Despite their partnership being tense at times (although not as tense as Drive To Survive made it out to be), Ricciardo and Verstappen are actually rather close. Verstappen’s not known for being effusive with praise for other drivers, so his support of Ricciardo is significant.
The 2022 Formula 1 World Championship starts back up this weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, with lights out scheduled for 11pm AEST on Sunday, 28th August.