McLaren boss Zak Brown believes that should Daniel Ricciardo be given another F1 race seat opportunity, he will be able to “rebuild” his career.
Ricciardo was let go by McLaren at the end of the 2022 season following poor performances alongside Lando Norris throughout his two-year stint with the Woking squad.
Unable to find a solution to alleviate Ricciardo’s worries, Brown elected to sign Oscar Piastri from Alpine to hand the younger Australian a race seat once a settlement was reached with eight-time Grand Prix winner Ricciardo.
The Australian was unable to secure a race seat elsewhere on the 2023 grid, and so has returned to Red Bull in a third driver role shadowing Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
However, Brown still believes that Ricciardo has something to offer in F1 – and believes he will return, citing the example of Nico Hulkenberg, who last raced in 2019.
Brown believes Ricciardo can fight back
“He came in as a seven-time [race] winner and he’s going out as an eight-time winner but he’s got to rebuild his on-track racing,” Brown told media when asked by RacingNews365.com if Ricciardo’s reputation had been damaged by his McLaren spell.
“I think it only takes one race to do that and all you need is one opportunity.
“It’s been done before – look at Hulkenberg.
“I didn’t think we’d see him back on the grid – that’s not any lack of respect for Nico – but he’s been out for a while.
“I definitely wouldn’t rule [Ricciardo returning] out.
“In one sense, if you go to Haas and give it to [Kevin] Magnussen, that’s one way to get back on the radar and the other is that a driver gets COVID, you are in a race-winning car, you go out and win the race and you are back on the grid.
“But I think it is hard to say which is going to create or will create the best opportunity to get back on the grid.”
No commercial decisions
Brown also emphatically ruled out any commercial links for the change from Ricciardo to Piastri, believing sponsors just need to get to know the 2021 Formula 2 champion.
“We will never make a driver decision based on commercial [reasons],” he explained.
“We’re fortunate that we have Lando and I think people just don’t know Oscar yet – his brand is yet to develop.
“People that sponsor McLaren know that we’re going to get do our best to get the best drivers available.
“Oscar’s personality will come out in time, it’s just not being exposed.
“I can’t speak for Australia in particular, but racing drivers are just there to get a race seat when it becomes available.
“Oscar and Daniel have spoken and Daniel totally gets it.
“It’s unfair to say Oscar took his seat.”