G’day, let’s talk Daniel Ricciardo and Oscar Piastri – it’s a car wreck and it’s playing out in the world’s media. Two drivers competing for the same seat at McLaren and at the time of writing this, things are still up in the air. So, how did we get to this point?
Well, let’s take a step back to the start. Sebastian Vettel resigned from Aston Martin on Thursday July 28, and I certainly didn’t see that coming. Fernando Alonso then wasn’t feeling the love at alpine and believed that Esteban was being favoured, so he spoke to Aston Martin about taking Seb’s seat.
We all went racing in Hungary and then everybody headed off for the summer break – well not everyone. In fact, Alonso’s management team had been busily negotiating with Aston Martin and had secured a multi-year agreement for the Spanish driver – something Alpine weren’t prepared to offer. So on Monday August 1, the two-time world champion issued a statement saying he was going to Aston Martin.
Aston Martin backed up that claim and posted on their social media. This caught alpine completely by surprise and they obviously went into panic mode and on Wednesday August 3, Alpine announced to the media and public via social media that Oscar Piastri would take Fernando’s seat in 2023 – It would be the Oscar and Esteban show at Alpine.
I got that press release and promptly posted on Instagram and then went to bed, little did I know, that two hours later there would be an announcement from Oscar saying he won’t be driving for Alpine. Oscar didn’t say why, but we now know that Mark Webber was well advanced in talks with McLaren about them taking the young Australian driver.
I think what we must remember here, is that formula one is a business and a big money business at that. Everyone is looking out for themselves, that’s just human nature and this is a ruthless game, especially when it comes to severing a relationship.
I feel for Daniel big time, he’s a gentleman, wears his heart on his sleeve and now he’s facing a few days, perhaps even weeks until the situation is sorted out and he will most likely have a very unhappy second half of the season having to work with a management team who clearly doesn’t want him there.
Daniel will be fed less information from the team and get less support because they know that at the end of the year he’s likely to go somewhere else in formula one – Where? Well, that’s not clear as yet. Will his heart be in it now? I can’t see it can be.
McLaren is going to have quite a difficult remainder of the season handling all this, Oscar’s also being touted as reserve driver for McLaren and not Alpine for the remainder of the year. Messy, ugly, awkward and embarrassing for many – all played out in the public eye.
But who knows what’s going on? Well, many travel people with teams will get requests from bosses and they’ll put two and two together, well connected journalists know people on the inside that will gladly pass on information, someone will see Zak Brown and say, Mark Webber in a restaurant and feed that to people. F1 contracts have to run past a number of eyes and there’s no guarantee that everyone will remain confidential. It’s hard to keep things quiet for very long especially in the sports world.
McLaren though have been silent on the issue – they’ve failed to put out any announcement since this drama kicked off. Be sure though that the two people at the centre of this drama are both good people, but of course they’re focused on themselves – it’s our nature, we want the best for ourselves.
Daniel Ricciardo, 33 years of age, from Perth, an eight-time f1 winner, managed by Creative Artists, his brand manager is Blake and his trainer fellow Australian Michael Italiano.
Oscar Piastri, 21 years of age, heralds from Melbourne, managed by Mark and Ann Webber, his trainer is Australian Kim Keedle.
Daniel has finished third in the World Drivers’ Championship twice and while he has a contract until the end of next year, he’s been outclassed by his younger teammate Lando Norris. It’s believed his contract has an out clause for him but not for McLaren, So Daniel is locked into McLaren until the end of 2023.
There’s no doubt though that Oscar is a talented driver, he won the 2019 Renault Euro Cup, he won the F3 championship in 2020 and then the F2 championship in 2021.
He and Daniel are immensely likable. Daniel is the only McLaren driver to have won since 2012, but Lando is on similar money and bringing in majority of points at the moment. It’s management’s responsibility to turn that around or cut their losses – this is a tough game, there’s big money at stake.
Results speak for themselves, the CEO of McLaren, Zak Brown, has already said that Dan’s results had generally not met his expectations. So let’s say McLaren says to Daniel we don’t want you driving for us in 2023, we want Oscar in that seat and we want Oscar as the reserve driver for the rest of this year. If that happens you’ll have them all in the same meetings, which would be very uncomfortable for all parties. Daniel could react in one of two ways; he could simply work super hard to prove them wrong or lose all interest and stop trying – I don’t see the latter as being optioned.
I see Daniel as a man who will work his bum off to see if he can prove McLaren wrong but there should be no doubt it will be a very uncomfortable three months for all parties.
So where will Dan go in 2023? If McLaren carry through for one thing he won’t be short of a dollar – it’s believed that his contract has no escape clause for McLaren, so they’ll have to pay him out for doing nothing, $20 million USD 20 by all reports now. If they’ve included a travel allowance per race or a set amount for a trainer maybe they’ll get to save that on their payout, but certainly there’ll be a lot of money heading out of McLaren in Daniel’s way. Kimi Raikkonen had a similar situation, he decided to sit out the following two years of his contract and just bank the cash.
If McLaren can move Daniel to their IndyCar team, perhaps they can save some money there. Daniel could perhaps even move to the Australian V8 Supercars, he’d be a huge hit there without a doubt and if he does get another drive in another series he’ll earn considerably less but maybe whatever he earns will come off McLaren’s payout, that depends on the contract.
Over these past few months Daniel would have been subject to many meetings with team bosses, there would probably have been some goals set, so Daniel would be seeing the writing on the wall and he took the astute decision to state his position on social media.
This post put McLaren on the back foot, as clearly if Daniel left it would be at the team’s decision not Daniel’s, McLaren is at a point where it wants to cut its losses and they get Oscar for substantially less than what they’re paying Daniel, how much? Maybe well less than 5 million a year I’d suggest and I’m guessing perhaps a million for the first year perhaps with some performance bonuses.
Can Oscar beat Lando? Well that remains to be seen. He’s a talented driver and his form certainly shows that. It’ll be very interesting to see the two go head to head.
Of course, the media is eating up this story – why? because you’re interested! if you weren’t interested the media would not cover this. The thing is, due to the length of time it’s taking to sort out this drama, everything’s playing out in public and that’s not ideal for any of the parties involved.
Let’s get on to the negative comments about Oscar Piastri that are abounding now on social media. Many of these are from hurt Daniel Ricciardo fans and they’re naturally looking for someone to blame. Be certain though Oscar’s goal is not to do Daniel in, he’s after a seat in f1, so if McLaren wants him in the team, his management is obliged to weigh up the offer and act in his best interests no matter who might be inconvenienced.
At this point you could expect that Daniel’s lost all confidence in the team – even if he was offered his seat for the remainder of his contract I can’t see him being enthusiastic or even interested in that option, so if McLaren really does want Daniel out and Oscar in, where does that leave Daniel. Of course, the Alpine seat is open since Fernando left and if the team can get over the hurt they endured when Daniel left for McLaren back in 2020, I can see him back there in 2023. He’ll be fired up then and very much motivated to show McLaren they made the wrong decision, that’s great for alpine, of course there’s no guarantee that alpine is going to let Oscar go at this stage.
We all just have to sit and wait for an announcement from the teams and from the two drivers. It’s a curious situation and I feel sad for Daniel with the way he’s been treated in this whole deal, and I would be sad to lose Daniel from formula one.