Zak Brown has moved to criticize the unfair comments that have been made since the McLaren F1 team opted to replace Daniel Ricciardo with Oscar Piastri for the 2023 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season.
Despite a disappointing two years with the woking-based team, Ricciardo was still able to take McLaren’s first win since 2012 when he took the checkered flag first in the 2021 Italian Grand Prixbut aside from that, he has not been able to show his best form and was heavily beaten by team-mate Lando Norris in the championship in 2022.
Brown himself has said the partnership between team and driver had failed to meet expectations, but he has hit back at the backlash the decision to terminate Ricciardo’s contract a year early, calling the accusations both unfair and unjustified, and he feels some people have overstepped and said things that are not at all appropriate.
“It’s been a very tough year, and it’s personal, business is personal, specifically Daniel, who’s been tremendous to work with and gave us our first win,” Brown said in an official video release from McLaren. “We had a lot of fun together and you know, we had a lot of frustration together that it didn’t work.
“I think the challenging part is being judged by people that aren’t really close to it, and everyone has an opinion and that’s fine, and that’s sport, I think you can’t be in sport and then not kind of have a thick skin, that the fans in the grandstands or the media are going to have their views.
“And you just need to be grounded in I know what really happened, I know the relationship that I really have with Daniel and his management and how transparent it was and how collaborative it was.
“And it wasn’t easy on anyone, but it wasn’t what a lot of people made it out to be and that’s frustrating because you kind of unfairly got accused of certain actions which you know, and he knows and those that are close to know it, that’s actually not what happened.
“But I think we’re in a high-profile sport, and what makes our sport great are fans that have opinions. I think in today’s day and age, unfortunately, I think we’re seeing a lot of people that overstep what’s an appropriate comment, but that’s the world we live in.
“And I think as long as those that are close to us know what really happened, you just kind of roll with the punches.”
Despite the ‘great mystery’ of why the McLaren-Ricciardo partnership did not seem to blossom, Brown knows the Australian driver still has the talent to succeed in Formula 1, and he hopes to see him back on the grid sooner rather than later.
And he said he is also open to partnering with Ricciardo again in the future at McLaren in other categories.
“It was tough, we all love Daniel,” Brown added. “I mean, he’s such a great spirit in the garage and on the radio and at the MTC [McLaren Technology Centre]but sometimes things don’t work out.
“It’s kind of the great mystery because he definitely has the talent, he showed us that in Monza, he’s won eight grands prix, that’s not won because everyone got wiped out in turn one, in Monza he took the lead and he was gone.
“So frustrating for all of us but the memory of Monza is, to date, my favorite memory of my 30 years in motorsports, and I’ve got to thank Daniel for that.
“And I very much hope to see him on the grid again in Formula 1, which is his desire, and the door remains open for him to be in some McLaren in the future. If the stars aligned, I’d love to go racing with him again.”