Daniel Ricciardo out at McLaren F1 team after 2002 season in buyout of final year

Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren  in the paddock before  the F1
Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images
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Daniel Ricciardo is out at McLaren after the 2022 Formula One season after the team negotiated a buyout with the Australian on the final year of his contract.

Ricciardo held the option on 2023 for his seat at McLaren but his performance has been underwhelming through 35 races. Although he did score McLaren’s first Formula One victory since 2012 with a win last September at Monza, Ricciardo has been outperformed by teammate Lando Norris nearly every race weekend.

The 33-year-old Ricciardo has just one podium with McLaren and only 19 points this season. Norris has one podium this season and 76 points.

“It’s been a privilege to be a part of the McLaren Racing family for the last two seasons,” Ricciardo said in a statement on Wednesday, adding he’d been in talks about his future with McLaren for “several months” before reaching a mutual agreement to end the deal a year early.

“I’ll be announcing my own future plans in due course but regardless of what this next chapter brings, I have no regrets and am proud of the effort and work I gave McLaren, especially the win in Monza, last season,” Ricciardo added. “I’ve never been more motivated to compete and be a part of a sport that I love so much and look forward to what comes next.”

McLaren head Zak Brown in May acknowledged that Ricciardo’s seat was shaky and said there were “mechanisms” in which the driver and team could split ahead of the 2023 season. The mechanism turned out to be a buyout since Ricciardo held the option on next season.

Although initial reports suggested Ricciardo was seeking more than $20 million to exit the team early, it is believed McLaren paid $15 million to end the contract.

McLaren is widely believed to have signed F2 champion Oscar Piastri, also an Australian, for Ricciardo’s seat. No announcement has been made by McLaren, but Piastri has declined a promotion to F1 with Alpine.

The Ricciardo move also could have implications in IndyCar, where McLaren has signed Alex Palou (who is in a contract dispute with Chip Ganassi Racing) to a deal that includes F1 testing (and possibly a future ride). Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenqvist also is awaiting clarity on his future and wants to continue driving for McLaren in the NTT IndyCar Series (depending on how the rides shake out).

“Daniel has been a great addition to McLaren, and it’s been a pleasure working with him,” said Brown. “It’s no secret that we hoped we could achieve more together but seeing him stand on the top step of the podium as a McLaren driver was a highlight.”

Following the Monza victory, Brown and Ricciardo visited a tattoo parlor in Texas so that Brown could commemorate the win with a permanent inking of the Monza circuit on his arm. He also rewarded Ricciardo by allowing him to drive the late Dale Earnhardt’s iconic No. 3 Chevrolet stock car in a demonstration at Circuit of the Americas. Brown owns the car and Ricciardo idolized Earnhardt as a child.

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl thanked Ricciardo for his “dedication and contribution” since joining the team.

“Despite the shared challenges, he has always turned up with a fighting spirit and positivity and helped the entire team to always keep pushing forward,” Seidl said. “We will never forget that memorable race win in Monza which was a great boost for the whole team. We still have an important battle in the constructors’ championship ahead of us for the remainder of the season and we look forward to battle this out with Daniel and Lando.”

Norris and Ricciardo helped McLaren to a fourth-place finish in the constructors championship last season.

Ricciardo, one of the most popular drivers in F1, is in his 12th season and has eight career victories.

Max Verstappen could clinch second F1 title with victory in Singapore Grand Prix

Max Verstappen F1 Singapore
LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images)
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While last year’s intense Formula One title battle went to the wire and captivated the world of sport, this year’s F1 championship long has seemed a procession for Max Verstappen that could end Sunday in the Singapore Grand Prix.

If the Red Bull driver wins, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crumbles, Verstappen will claim his second consecutive series title.

Verstappen leads Leclerc by 116 points with six races remaining in the 2022 season and will clinch the title if he scores 22 points more than Leclerc, his most realistic head-to-head challenger.

Verstappen, who turned 25 on Friday, must win to clinch a second world title, along with two other scenarios involving Leclerc. If Verstappen wins, Leclerc can finish no higher than ninth; if Verstappen wins and earns a bonus point for fastest lap, Leclerc can finish no higher than eighth.

“It’s quite a long shot,” Verstappen said. “I need a lot of luck for it to happen here, so I don’t really count on it.”

It is more realistic that Verstappen secures the title Oct. 9 at the Japanese GP.

“I think Suzuka will be my first proper opportunity to win the title,” the Dutchman said. “So I’m looking forward to Singapore right now, but I’m also very excited for next week.”

Still, there’ll be no tension in the air Sunday night at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, as in Abu Dhabi last year when Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton lost the title on the last lap to Verstappen. Hamilton missed out on a record eighth F1 title in a controversial finish following a chaotic late restart.

That fans won’t get to see any such drama this season is much to Hamilton’s regret.

“I feel for the fans . . . Last year, going right down to the wire, that was intense for everybody and so it’s never great when the season finishes early,” Hamilton said. “For you, as the one individual (winner) it’s great, but for the actual sport, (it) is not spectacular. Let’s hope for the future that it’s a bit better.”

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez (125 points back), Mercedes driver George Russell (132 behind) and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (152) are mathematical title challengers only.

Red Bull is unlikely to allow Perez an opportunity to beat Verstappen, though, and would deploy him to defend its star driver. Verstappen has won 11 of 16 races, including the past five, taking his career tally to 31.

“It’s been a really special season, and I’m enjoying it a lot,” he said. “But I (will) probably enjoy it more after the season, looking back at it.”

He’s also won from seven different grid positions – a single-season F1 record – including starting from 14th at the Belgian GP last month.

“It’s even good to watch when you’re in the car,” McLaren driver Lando Norris said. “Especially when he starts (far back) and still wins quite easily.”

Hamilton hasn’t been close enough to challenge Verstappen this year after so long in the spotlight.

Two of Hamilton’s came on the last day: in 2008 with an overtake on the last corner of the final race, and in 2014 when he beat then-Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in Abu Dhabi. Two years later, he lost the title in the last race to Rosberg.

Hamilton won the championship with three races left in 2015, and he won the 2020 title at the Turkish GP in a shortened season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With seven titles, that put him even with fellow great Michael Schumacher, who won the 2002 championship with six races remaining. An outstanding campaign saw Schumacher place first or second in 16 of 17 races and third in Malaysia – a race won by his younger brother, Ralf.

Hamilton has a record 103 victories but none this season.

Mercedes has struggled with ground effects, where the floor generates aerodynamic grip – an issue known as porpoising or bouncing – that has been particularly difficult on street circuits like Monaco or Azerbaijan.

Singapore’s tight and sinewy 3.1-mile street course again could be challenging.

“We hope that the car works better here,” Hamilton said. “It really depends how bumpy it is, and the bumps often set the car off. Maybe the car will be fine. Maybe it won’t.”

He does think Mercedes has figured out how to maximize opportunities when they do come.

“We know where those limitations are; we just have to try and work around them,” he said. “I think we were very fortunate, we’re in a much better place I think. So I hope that we’re not far away (from a victory).”

Russell seems to have coped better, however, and leads sixth-place Hamilton by 35 points in the standings. He has seven podium finishes compared to six for Hamilton, who was fifth in the second practice after leading the opening session. The Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc topped the second practice.

Williams driver Alex Albon returns to racing just three weeks after being hospitalized with appendicitis and then suffering subsequent respiratory failure.

Albon jumped back into the Williams FW44 for the first practice session on Friday in hot and humid evening conditions.

“It’s definitely audacious to come back for the toughest race of the season having only just recovered,” Russell said. “But it just goes to show the sort of grit and determination he has.”

Drivers lose around 5 kilos (11 pounds) in weight through dehydration during Sunday’s race.