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A poor 15th-place finish by Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo at the Belgian GP has left many F1 stars and pundits wondering whether he has lost the will to compete on the grid as they see the McLaren rejection as a ‘broken man’ to call.
Starting in seventh place after seven drivers were given grid penalties, Ricciardo’s season went from bad to worse after being eliminated earlier this week, with the team essentially putting all their tactics and resources into team-mate Lando Norris, who finished 12th.
It was a horror result as the affable Aussie tried to prove he deserves a place on the grid next season, with McLaren’s struggles and backward tactics on display for all to see.
Ricciardo’s woes at Spa led to former F1 star and prominent commentator Martin Brundle stating he wasn’t sure whether the Aussie could or would continue next year.
Daniel Ricciardo waves to the crowd before the Belgian GP on Sunday evening. Is it the Aussie’s last season in F1?
“I don’t like looking at Daniel. It’s painful, isn’t it?’ Brundle said on the Sky Sports broadcast.
Daniel didn’t convince me that he wanted to stay on the grid, that he wanted to go to Alpine or anywhere.
“I think he does have that potential, but I saw a bit of a broken man, I didn’t see it ‘I’m going to win a race this year, I’m going to be on the grid next year. I’ll show them they have here made the wrong decision”.’
Daniel Ricciardo was not his usual bubbly and happy self at the Belgian GP
For Ricciardo’s side, he said he was just happy to be racing again after weeks of constant speculation and criticism.
‘Leaving a rough weekend behind us. It felt good to be outside again,” he wrote on his Instagram, accompanied by a photo showing the back of his number 3 McLaren jersey.
When asked on the broadcast whether he would stay in F1 next year, Ricciardo was noncommittal.
‘Time will tell. We will see. We’ll see what feels right and what’s right, but it’ll be pure where I think it’s most competitive,” he said.
“That’s what it comes down to in the end. It’s not about factors other than that.’
Daniel Ricciardo proudly waves an Australian ‘Boxing Kangaroo’ flag to the crowd during the Belgian GP
Thirteen-time GP winner and F1 icon David Coulthard believes Ricciardo struggles for motivation, not skill or speed.
“I don’t think drivers lose speed regardless of age, they just lose need,” he told Channel 4’s broadcast.
“Has he just lost that raw childhood hunger he had when he first got into the sport?”
Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren car sparks during the Belgian GP
Ricciardo was officially fired by McLaren last Thursday with a year to run on his $24 million contract after weeks of speculation that fellow Aussie Oscar Piastri would take his place in 2023.
The Perth native took it all on his feet, calling the decision “bittersweet” and insisting that he would “give everything” for McLaren for the rest of the season.
No matter how hard he tries, Ricciardo is often paralyzed by the tactics and technology at McLaren – something many fans have pointed out after his 15th place finish at Spa.
Daniel Ricciardo deep in thought during Belgian GP at night, leaving many fans saying they just wanted to ‘give him a hug’
Footage of him sitting alone with headphones on while other drivers mingled led many to declare on social media to ‘hug Daniel Ricciardo’, while another wrote ‘we’ll be right behind you’ with photos of the usually cheerful Aussie looking down.
McLaren may have been a laughing stock at Spa, but Red Bull certainly wasn’t.
Max Verstappen put on a driving masterclass and won comfortably despite starting 14th on the grid due to a penalty.
Teammate Sergio Perez finished second with Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari miles in third.
From left to right: Carlos Sainz (third), Max Verstappen (first) and Sergio Perez (second) celebrate after strong rides at the Belgian GP
It almost feels like a fait accompli now. Verstappen will win back-to-back Driver Championships, with Perez raving about his teammate’s performance.
“Max was on another planet today, he flew, he was untouchable,” he said after Verstappen’s victory.
Scary for the rest of the paddock, the next GP is Verstappen’s home race – the Dutch GP at Zandvoort – a venue he won last season.