Daniel Ricciardo may have finally made a smart career move.
The Australian star emerged from Monday morning’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix as the biggest winner after sitting back and watching his former team McLaren crumble.
The 33-year-old was sacked last year and replaced by fellow Australian Oscar Piastri, who had a nightmarish start to his career in the famous papaya colors of McLaren.
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The Formula 1 world – and in particular the legions of Ricciardo fans of his Drive to Survive stardom – revels in Ricciardo’s seemingly serendipitous chain of events.
While Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Aston Martin’s red team were also big winners, a look at the season-opening results shows that it’s Ricciardo whose smile will be the brightest.
Last year the West Australian had a roller coaster ride in his third team as he more often than not failed to find the form that made him one of the most exciting drivers on the grid.
He claimed McLaren’s first Grand Prix victory since 2012 when he crossed the finish line first in the 2022 Italian Grand Prix, edging out Norris.
But after claiming his eighth Grand Prix victory, Ricciardo never again set foot on the podium as a McLaren driver.
It eventually saw the team sever ties with him in favor of the young Australian riding Piastri in wild scenes that took the F1 paddock by storm.
The fallout from the unceremonious ax is captured in Netflix’s new season of their hit, Drive to Survive, with a moment showing Ricciardo being warned of the betrayal.
Ricciardo appeared to have been warned by a reporter not to trust McLaren boss Zak Brown after the CEO decided to sign Piastri before even telling Ricciardo he had been let go with a full season remaining on his CONTRACT.
He walked away with a reported monster payout with some reports claiming the contract termination was worth up to $24 million.
Getting paid a fortune not to drive McLaren’s 2023 Lemon is as sweet as it gets.
Formula 1 blogger and podcast host VF Castro posted on Twitter: “Daniel Ricciardo is the real winner this year. Imagine being paid $18 million not to drive that car…and then becoming Red Bull’s third driver.”
Ricciardo has since returned to his old stomping ground at Red Bull as a reserve driver for Verstappen and Sergio Perez. His role is to put in hours on the team simulator and do marketing tasks at the races he takes part in. The part-time role gives him the freedom he’s longed for after saying he was battling burnout in 2022.
His move to Red Bull as a reserve, rejecting offers of race seats at smaller Williams and Haas teams, was roundly criticized in the F1 paddock at the time.
Drive to Survive icon and Haas team boss Guenther Steiner has revealed the team pulled the pin by suing Ricciardo over his highly inflated contract demands.
Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was vocal about his excitement about potentially partnering with the smiling Aussie in 2023, but Steiner quickly shut down the idea.
“We can’t afford it, Kevin,” Steiner said. “He wants 10 fucking million. Minimum!”
The decision to sit out the season is still the biggest gamble of Ricciardo’s career – but it certainly looks the right one after McLaren, Haas and Williams all showed they will struggle to break through the middle of the pack in 2023.
If he is able to return to the grid with a competitive team in 2024, it will be the first time Ricciardo has had a proper major career decision with his move from Red Bull to Alpine (formerly known as Renault) and then Alpine. at McLaren both being disasters.
Watching where McLaren, Williams and Haas finished in Bahrain shows why Ricciardo fans can smile, even if the popular driver’s career is still in pergatory.
Bahrain Grand Prix Results
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Sergio Perez, Red Bull,
3) Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin
4) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
5) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
6) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
7) George Russell, Mercedes
8) Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo
9) Pierre Gasly, Alpine
10) Alex Albon, Williams
11) Yuki Tsunoda, Alpha Tauri
12) Logan Sargeant, Williams
13) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
14) Nyck De Vries, AlphaTauri
15) Nico Hulkenberg, Haas
16) Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo
17 years old, Lando Norris, McLaren
18) Esteban Ocon, Alpine (DNF)
19) Charles Leclerc (DNF)
20) Oscar Piastri, McLaren (DNF)
There’s no guarantee there will be an opening for him at a top team in 2024, with Red Bull (Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez), Ferrari (Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz) and Mercedes (George Russell, Lewis Hamilton) entrenched with their driving couples. in the foreseeable future.
Speaking recently on the Beyond the Grid podcast, Ricciardo said he was relieved Red Bull, Mercedes or Ferrari hadn’t offered him a full-time ride that he felt compelled to accept when his heart was not there for 2023.
It may still be a career-ending decision, but for now at least he can have a smile on his face.
. Daniel Ricciardo grand winner Grand Price Bahrain then McLaren Oscar Piastri endure nightmare
. Daniel Ricciardo big Bahrain Grand Prix winner McLaren Oscar Piastri endure nightmare