It has been a financial car crash. McLaren has had to pay out Daniel Ricciardo after dumping him and Alpine has lost the millions it invested in Oscar Piastri.
No one one knows where his mojo went. Least of all Daniel Ricciardo, a multiple GP winner facing an end to a career that once promised a world championship.
Sadly, the best he may have to have to accept next year is a seat at the back of the grid if he wants to continue in the world’s most exclusive sport.
Sacked by McLaren team after being consistently out driven by his young teammate in 14 of this season’s races there is little hope of coming back next year.
Certainly not at McLaren, with only eight races left this season before he is paid out and turned out in favour of Melbourne rookie Oscar Piastri.
No one one knows why Ricciardo is no longer one of the five best drivers in the world at the elite level of motor sport.
Yes, he is no longer fast enough. But why is he no longer fast enough?
Ricciardo, the former Perth driver who lives in Monte Carlo and in other luxury homes around the world, has won eight GPs.Embed from Getty Images
The last was only last year in Italy, but the Honey Badger has what he had and neither Ricciardo nor anyone else seems to know where it went.
Who wants a driver who has been on a downslide since he left Red Bull for Renault, now Alpine, before again jumping teams to McLaren?
With Piastri cleared by the Contract Review Board to join McLaren instead of staying with Alpine where he is a reserve driver, Ricciardo may find he is going nowhere fast.
If anyone is considering offering him a seat it will not be a competitive team.
Alpine was said to be open to asking him back but is now likely to sign French driver Pierre Gasly from AphaTauri.
American team Haas might have a seat available but they are not in a race winning position and unlikely to be so in the near future.
Williams, with a seat available next year, also fails to meet Ricciardo’s hopes of joining a competitive team.
The driver who had the biggest smile in Formula One says he doesn’t want to just make up the numbers on the grid, but nor do these teams want a driver doing much the same.
Ricciardo might not be able to explain why he is no longer the driver he used to be, but he is beginning to realise that is how most teams now view him.
The Dutch Grand Prix among the sand dunes at Zandvoort provided another case in point on Sunday.
Ricciardo started 17th on the grid and finished 17th.
Max Verstappen in the Red Bull won from George Russell in the Mercedes with Charles Leclerc third in the Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton was fourth for Mercedes and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez fifth.Embed from Getty Images
Lando Norris was seventh for McLaren while Ricciardo finished ahead of only Nicholas Latifi in the Williams, also likely to be on his way next year.
Valtteri Bottas in the Alfa Romeo and Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri failed to finish.
Hamilton apologised to Mercedes for an angry outburst after being left out on the track on worn tyres during a safety car slow down, only to be passed by Verstappen on fresh rubber at the restart.
Hamilton was not the only one to complain at the weekend.
Alpine team chief Otmar Sfaznauer accused Piastri of “lacking integrity” over signing with McLaren and there was also the matter of money.
Not only the “millions” Alpine had spent of preparing Piastri for Formula One, but the cost of its legal challenge to losing a driver they said was under contract.
That was nearly $500,000 in Australian dollars, most it in lawyers’ fees.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo was heard lamenting as he walked with Sergio Perez after the race.
A hot mic as they passed by picked him up telling the Red Bull driver he might “take a year off and come back in 2024.”
But will anyone be interested a year from now?
Sadly, the answer in 2024 is likely to be a polite thanks, but no thanks.
But a sincere thanks for the memories. As Oscar Piastri and his manager Mark Webber have said, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.”