Daniel Ricciardo went from hero to zero in less than 71 laps yesterday in Mexico. Started from pole position, which was depicted as the best of comebacks amid bad luck and failures, lost the lead to his teammate and did not manage to see the checkered flag. On Saturday he seemed to have broken the streak of increasingly less satisfactory results, which were always culminating in power unit failures, but the very next day he was back to the same old routine.
Helmut Marko added salt to the wound right after qualifying, whose epilogue left him rather unhappy. The Austrian manager put a hint of cruelty in his comments, having told Ricciardo to enjoy the pole position because "He might be waiting a bit longer for another one when he's driving for Renault."
Marko’s mind games are growing stronger race by race, increasing the internal fracture within the team. In the end, Ricciardo still drives for Renault-powered Red Bull. Now that the Australian is set to kiss Red Bull goodbye at the end of the year, the internal politics have been made clearer. The team’s support flamboyantly leans on Max Verstappen, the brand new Honda ambassador, whereas his teammate had previously drifted away from manifesting faith in the Japanese manufacturer.
Having collected 8 failures so far, Daniel Ricciardo was downbeat in front of the press yesterday, and let a number of strong statements out.
“I don’t even think frustration is the word anymore. Helpless I think is the best word. Another problem with this car. It hasn’t been a clean weekend for so long. Even today, you know the starts have been good all weekend – the practice starts.”
The most striking part was: “I don’t know, the car is just… I’ll let Gasly drive it, I’m done with it.”
“Everything just feels hopeless,” he said. “I honestly… don’t see the point coming on Sunday. I don’t see the point doing the next two races. I haven’t had a clean race all weekend in so long. I’m not superstitious or any of that bullshit, but the car is cursed.”
Ricciardo also reiterated his willingness to skip the final two races to all TVs. Was this Helmut Marko’s ultimate target? The Austrian evidently took Ricciardo’s next career move as an outrage and pulled the mind games out of his bag of tricks, since demolishing his drivers’ mental strength as quick as he built them is no stranger to him.
Is Daniel Ricciardo really going to quit before the 2018 season draws to a close? I would not think so. Straight from the RB press release, here is a more sweetened version of Ricciardo’s declarations: “I don’t want to end it like this and I know nobody is doing it deliberately but I just can’t seem to catch a break and a double podium for the team today was exactly what we all wanted. I’m a very positive guy and I will probably still wake up tomorrow with some sort of positivity”.
It is blindingly obvious that the press release cannot feature any hardcore declarations against the team itself, but that is still a lighter version of Ricciardo’s post-race quotes. Plus, with him being a professional, I believe those words stood for a mere liberatory rant and he will carry on. In the end, there are only two races to go!