GRANDPRIX247 Formula 1 News Website Title Partner BCGAME
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB greets fans on the Melbourne Walk prior to final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 23, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Why is underperforming Ricciardo keeping his seat in F1?

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB greets fans on the Melbourne Walk prior to final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 23, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Answering the headline question: Money! It’s all about marketing and until now Daniel Ricciardo’s shares as an entertainer (as opposed to a race driver) is what is keeping him in a Formula 1 drive. For now.

Yuki Tsunoda is 3-0 up in qualifying already this season. That the younger VCARB driver exposed Ricciardo in both Qualy and the Race in Melbourne was brutal.

So much so that the Liam Lawson lobby, headed by the NZ Herald has this to say: “Should Ricciardo fail to improve over the next two Grand Prix in Japan and China respectively, Red Bull will perform a swap that sees Lawson likely installed in the Racing Bulls seat for Miami and remain with the team for the rest of the season.

“The Herald also understands Lawson is seen internally as Red Bull’s best option to partner world champion Max Verstappen long-term, with current teammate Sergio Perez’s contract to expire at the end of the 2024 season,” adds the report.

The tale of the 34-year-old’s downward spiralling F1 career has been well-told. In a nutshell, Ricciardo was once one of the most feared competitors on the grid during his stint with Red Bull with whom he won seven GPs. But the Aussie lost his mojo.

First at Renault where he was neither good nor bad. Anonymous mostly. Still highly rated, another big bucks deal followed, this time with McLaren which kept him relevant until he started driving for them. Zak Brown, Andrea Stella etc never found the real Dan, the guy they thought they hired did not turn up at Woking.

Norris demolished Ricciardo at McLaren

ricciardo norris mclaren-001

Ricciardo just got worse by the race, until eventually McLaren paid his to leave. Lando Norris demolished his teammate. This prompted McLaren to pay-off one Aussie to leave a year earlier than expected, with a fresh one in Oscar Piastri proving to be the best decision Brown has ever made.

Unemployed for a while and against all expectations Nyck de Vries came to be Ricciardo’s saviour by flopping badly as an AlphaTauri driver. The Dutchman never found his place in F1 and by race ten of the 2023 season was sent packing and prodigal son, Ricciardo was back.

Fast forward to right now and the question has to be asked: How much longer can a driver be kept in a race seat while around him deserving talent is being marginalised or ignored? Reason? The classic: Show us the money!

Ricciardo’s management team at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) Sports, are responsible not only for managing the Australian race driver but also for brokering the $35-million Visa CashApp title sponsors they have brought to the Red Bull junior team on the back of Dan returning to the energy drinks fold.

Sports Business Journal (SBJ) reports that Ricciardo’s “agents at CAA, Nick Thimm and Roman Di Somma, are exploring new efforts to grow his pre-existing businesses, namely a clothing brand, Ric3, and wine company, DR3 Wines by St Hugo, both of which are seeing marked growth in America.

The report adds that the 34-year-old retains endorsement deals “with Beats by Dre, EA Sports, OKX, Optus and Bombardier Recreational Products, among others, and he’s got a budding relationship with the Bills and QB Josh Allen, a fellow CAA client.”

CAA data shows Ricciardo’s fanbase has grown in the USA

Ricciardo: Take-homes from 2023, some metal in my hand

Ricciardo’s other projects include: serving as exec producer of a Hulu series set to be F1’s version of ‘Entourage’ series, which is loosely based on Mark Wahlberg’s early career in Hollywood.

CAA data shows Ricciardo’s fanbase has grown in the USA in the wake of the grand success of Netflix’s “Drive To Survive” fly-on-the-wall series about F1 that has run on the streaming platform since 2020.

Throw into all this the fact that Christian Horner is a Ricciardo advocate. So, understandably, the prodigal son returned. Ditto Helmut Marko who is likely to be the one who gave the final nod for Dan’s return, first as a F1 reserve for the organisation and, after the De Vries debacle, a seat back on the grid alongside Yuki Tsunoda.

But the Ricciardo of the old Red Bull days is long gone. Instead the veteran – of nearly 250 GP starts, 32 times a podium finisher and a winner on eight of those occasions – has been shown up by Tsunoda who is hardly a worthy benchmark. The 23-year-old Japanese driver has out-qualified his more experienced teammate three times already this season.

Ten Grand Prix starts into his comeback, with AlphaTauri now VCARB, Ricciardo has scored points only once. His chance of getting the seat he so covets, namely that of Sergio Perez beside Max Verstappen, if it was ever a chance must be super slim if not over.

But according to ESPN the Visa and CashApp title sponsorship is worth $35-million-a-year to the Red Bull organisation. A deal brokered by CAA. Hence the reason that Liam Lawson watches Ricciardo drive around slowly, when in fact the New Zealander should be in the car from the next race.

Dan must forget Red Bull, Max will pulverise him

ricciardo verstappen perez red bull f1 2023

Furthermore, if Red Bull chief Christian Horner was focusing on his job (instead of allegedly conducting a WhatsApp fling with a female team member) maybe the flirtatious RBR boss would have seen what we all saw last year in Ricciardo. A done and dusted driver. Bring on, Lawson!

Of course, Dan must forget Red Bull, Max will pulverise him. It is really hard to see Ricciardo replacing (the always underfire) Sergio Perez who has done all that is required of him for the World Champs, namely last year P2 behind Max in the F1 world championship. Sure he laboured to get it while the #1 RBR disappeared. But Checo delivered and is doing so again this year.

Let’s not forget that Ricciardo was once WDC material. He was that audacious, much admired, big smiling lad who once sent none other than four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel packing from Red Bull.

Now he keeps the seat not because he is among the 20 best racing drivers on the planet, which he certainly is no more but because it appears his management team has ‘bought’ the drive and needs Ricciardo to be the guy because of his ratings and marketing value. But for how long?

Lawson should be another ten more races into his F1 career, not Ricciardo

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Peter Bayer, CEO of Visa Cash App RB, Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko and Liam Lawson of New Zealand and Visa Cash App RB talk in the Paddock prior to the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 24, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Quoting several sources, ESPN reports: “While Visa and CashApp do not have the power to block a driver move, the importance of that deal to Red Bull GmbH – which opted for the title partnership over selling the second team altogether – gives Ricciardo an extra level of protection.”

The report adds that the deal is a double-edged sword of sorts for the Aussie. If overnight the DannyRic of old emerge and send it like in the past it would knock his “Red Bull aspirations if Visa and Cash App are keen for him to remain as the face of VCARB.”

Ten Grand Prix weekends into Ricciardo’s second F1 coming, wasted on a driver who did not deserve a second chance after the McLaren mess. He has not improved, in fact, he got worse some folk in the F1 paddock whisper.

Records show that last season Lawson did a stellar job when subbing for Ricciardo who broke his hand crashing at Zandvoort. Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Kiwi ticked all the boxes during those five GP weekends. he stood in and also showed up Tsunoda for that matter

One cannot help thinking it is Lawson who should be another ten races into his F1 career, not Ricciardo.

Big Question: What’s your take on Daniel Ricciardo?