‘People will probably hate me for saying it’: Norris has no sympathy for Ricciardo

Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium: McLaren’s Lando Norris said he had no sympathy for teammate Daniel Ricciardo after the Australian’s split from the former champions was announced this week.

Ricciardo will leave the British-based team at the end of the season, paid off a year before his contract was due to expire.

“I don’t feel like you have to have sympathy for any driver because they’ve not been able to do as good a job,” Norris told reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix on Thursday, adding that “people will probably hate me for saying it”.

Ricciardo has scored a mere 19 points, with a highest position of sixth, this season compared to Norris’s 76 from 13 races and a third place at Imola.

Norris said he was just focusing on his own performance, rather than his teammate.

“It’s not my job to focus on someone else. I’m not a driver coach,” he said.

Daniel Ricciardo (left) and McLaren teammate Lando Norris.Credit:Getty Images

“I’m here to perform at my absolute best, and that’s about it. So, it’s difficult when people start to have this expectation that it’s my job to also start doing these other things and helping and describing this and doing that.

“It’s also the case that if I don’t perform well for a few years that it could also be the end of my career and me driving in Formula 1.”

But former teammate and four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel said McLaren had failed to get the most out of Ricciardo and said his talents will ultimately shine through.

The German told reporters he was sad to see the Australian lose his seat at the end of the season.

The move leaves Ricciardo, who beat then-reigning champion Vettel in their first year as Red Bull teammates in 2014, looking for a drive for 2023.

“I think it’s a very, very difficult situation to be in,” Vettel, who was left without a drive after losing his Ferrari seat in 2020 before signing for Aston Martin, told reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix.

“I had the pleasure to race against him, and the not-so-pleasurable side of getting beaten by him years ago.

“I don’t know the details, but I guess McLaren failed to extract the potential that he has. I’m sure that ultimately the talent he has and the qualities he has will shine through.”

Former Red Bull teammates Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo in 2014.Credit:AP

Ricciardo earned McLaren their first win since 2012 at last year’s Italian Grand Prix, a one-two with Norris.

The eight-time grand prix winner, who has twice finished third in the overall standings, has largely struggled for results since moving from Renault (now Alpine) at the end of 2020.

He has also been outpaced by his younger teammate, who has a long-term deal.

McLaren, who are widely expected to replace Ricciardo with rookie compatriot Oscar Piastri, have failed to produce a car capable of consistently fighting at the front.

Mercedes seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton also showed support for Ricciardo.

“Really unfortunate for Daniel,” said the Briton. “I still think he deserves a place here in the sport, so I really hope there’s somewhere great for him because he’s still got lots to achieve.”

Ricciardo still wants to race in F1 but would consider a one-year sabbatical in 2023 if his options are limited for next season.

“If it made sense, yes. It’s the only racing I’m interested in. F1 is what I love and where I see myself, if I’m doing any racing,” Ricciardo said Thursday. “But if the stars don’t align and it doesn’t make perfect sense next year, and if it means taking that time off to reset, then that’s the right thing to do.

Daniel Ricciardo at a press conference ahead of the Belgium Grand Prix.Credit:Getty Images

“That fire, that belief is still in me. I still love the sport. I haven’t lost that confidence in myself,” he added. “I want to do it competitively, I want to do it in the right place. I never want to just be a driver and make up the numbers.”

F1’s “silly season” of free agency hit a frenzied pitch at the start of F1’s summer break with Fernando Alonso’s defection to Aston Martin. That he’s still in demand at 41 years old is testimony to the remarkable longevity of his talent.

Alonso hinted at frustration that Alpine, which has been developing F2 champion Piastri, was not offered a multi-year contract to return.

Alonso’s move, the day after the Hungarian GP, left Alpine scrambling. The team said late the next day it was promoting reserve driver Piastri into Alonso’s seat for 2023. But Piastri then declined the offer and the 21-year-old Australian, described as “an incredible talent” by Alonso, has been linked to McLaren as Ricciardo’s replacement.

“I think Oscar is guaranteed a spot on the grid next year,” Ricciardo said. “I will support a fellow Aussie.”

Ricciardo said talks with McLaren were ongoing for “the last few months” and “a dead end” between the two parties was inevitable.

“It wasn’t dropped [on me], it wasn’t just a random call one day ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing,’” Ricciardo said. “I understood that was a point of concern, because the results I was getting were not up to the level that we all thought they could have been.

“We tried to get through it and understand things with the car and me gelling with it. But there too many weekends where it was too much of a struggle,” the 33-year-old added. “It’s not the nicest feeling. But I can look back on it and hold my head high in terms of applying myself and trying to make it work. Sometimes you have to accept you tried and it didn’t work out.”

Reuters, AP

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