Formula 1 grand prix winner David Coulthard says Daniel Ricciardo needs to offload ‘baggage’ in a bid to rediscover what made him the ‘Honey Badger’ in the first place.
With countryman Oscar Piastri replacing him at McLaren in 2023, the forthcoming Abu Dhabi Grand Prix could be Ricciardo’s final appearance in Formula 1.
As yet, Ricciardo hasn’t firmed up his future in the sport, though that looks likely to be as a reserve driver with the team he took the lion’s share of his eight wins with – Red Bull.
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Despite options being limited, Ricciardo has often spoken about a sabbatical before returning to the grid in 2024.
Speaking on the Australian Grand Prix Corporation’s In The Fast Lane podcast, Coulthard said he hopes to see Ricciardo back in Formula 1.
However, he believes that will require a readjustment to rediscover his form.
“I think he needs to step away, take stock, and rediscover whatever it was that was working for him in the first part of his Formula 1 journey – he’s young enough and fit enough to be able to get back to that place,” Coulthard explained.
“Success brings a lot of things and it brings baggage. Maybe some of that baggage is really expensive designer baggage, but it still has to be carried, and, therefore, for some people that slows them down.
“Not that he’s asking me, I would say, ‘right, let’s take it back to where you were. How were you living at that point? What was it that your mind was filled with?’
“Maybe he’s become more focused on, I don’t know, his wine business or spending time in America, or whatever it is, but something has definitely changed that’s not allowing him to release that absolute ‘Honey Badger’ performance like we’ve seen in the past.
“Let’s hope he regroups, comes back and shows us the Daniel that we all fell in love with, which is a high-achieving, hard-racing, straight-talking, big grinning, Aussie.”
Ricciardo is on course for his worst season in Formula 1 to date since 2013 when he drove for Red Bull surrogate Toro Rosso (now Alpha Tauri).
With one race remaining in the 2022 season, Ricciardo has just six top 10 finishes in a podium-less year.
Lando Norris has soundly outperformed his McLaren teammate, qualifying ahead of him 19 times to Ricciardo’s two.
Ricciardo has finished higher than Norris in just five of the 21 races to date.
Norris lies seventh in the standings with one podium to his name and has only been outside the points on five occasions.
While the Perth pilot is arguably one of the sport’s most popular figures on the grid, pure pace is no substitute for personality.
“It’s obviously been painful for us all to see his struggles in the McLaren having left Red Bull as a grand prix winner,” said Coulthard.
“The Renault or Alpine experiment didn’t give him the big results.
“One victory with McLaren – of course, in Monza where Lando was second – is not the consistency of results we were used to.
“Daniel was one of the most exciting drivers to see go racing, one of the last of the late brakers, always able to pull off some amazing passes.
“The performance relative to Lando doesn’t lie, no matter how affectionately we all talk about Daniel – he’s definitely one of the fans’ favorites – this is a stopwatch game, it’s not a personality business.
“It’s good if you’ve got a nice personality if you’re delivering, but ultimately that’s not going to keep you in Formula 1.”
Coulthard drove for Williams at its peak in the mid-1990s then McLaren throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s before joining Red Bull in the mid-2000s.
In his 15-year career, Coulthard claimed 13 grand prix wins, including two wins at his home British Grand Prix.
This weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will see McLaren run a special one-off livery.
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