Formula 1

Ricciardo in the Spotlight: Montreal Performance and the Road Ahead

6 Mins read
Photo: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Daniel Ricciardo has been a hot topic of conversation around the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix weekend, with Jacques Villeneuve taking aim at the Australian for his current performances.

Despite a sub-par 2024 season so far, Ricciardo had his best weekend of the year so far in Montreal, qualifying in fifth and securing his first points in a full Grand Prix by finishing eighth, while bouncing back from a 5 second penalty for a jump start that had the potential to ruin his weekend.

Ricciardo Vs Tsunoda

One weekend out of nine has seen Ricciardo bring home points for Visa Cash App RB in a full Grand Prix format, alongside his outstanding performance in the Miami Grand Prix Sprint. His much younger teammate Yuki Tsunoda has had an outstanding season, getting points in six out of the nine rounds so far. 

In Formula 1, the first person you are judged against is your teammate so Ricciardo’s criticism has come almost directly from the performances Tsunoda has been showing. As with anything in F1, the statistics always have context to them. The main example with Ricciardo is the broken chassis he had for the first three rounds of the season, and since then he has much closer to Tsunoda. 

If we’re starting from Japan, Ricciardo qualified just one place behind Tsunoda at his home circuit be we never got to see what would’ve happened during the race with the Australian retiring after a lap one incident. In China, Ricciardo had the upper hand, while Miami was a real mixed bag with an excellent performance in the Sprint, then a really poor qualifying that gave him little chance on race day.

A top ten start at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was really positive, but a mixture of a poor getaway and questionable strategy cost him any sort of points. It was a similar story for Tsunoda, who fell away back to tenth, claiming just the one point. 

In a Monaco Grand Prix weekend dictated by qualifying, Ricciardo failed to match Tsunoda on Saturday, and that ultimately was the difference between the two on the Sunday. The most recent weekend in Montreal was Ricciardo’s best weekend and he was ahead of his teammate all weekend for just the second time this season (China being the other one). 

Tsunoda has had the upper hand on Ricciardo this season so far – Photo: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Consistency is Key

Ricciardo has been struggling throughout 2024, he’s admitted that but when you look at it objectively, the struggle hasn’t been as worrying as his difficulties at McLaren F1 Team. The issues with Ricciardo at McLaren ran deeper than the problems he’s having with RB. Ricciardo wasn’t quick at McLaren – we only really saw his speed once at the Italian Grand Prix. It’s been different this season, the speed has been there but the consistency hasn’t.

Not only has this consistency been lacking from weekend to weekend, it’s happened session to session, which was the issue in Miami. Qualifying has also been an area of concern, and one that Tsunoda has frequently delivered on, giving him a much better chance of points on a Sunday, while Ricciardo is stuck down the order in a DRS train. The race pace between Tsunoda and Ricciardo in Free Practice sessions has been similar and when the pair have had free air to run in during races, it’s been a similar story. The difference between them is smaller than some may believe, and the fix for Ricciardo isn’t as difficult either. 

The last grand prix in Montreal could be a real turning point for Ricciardo. His drive around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was exceptional. Bouncing back from the five second time penalty, and the bad start, which is a massive issue for both RB drivers at the minute, all alongside the difficult conditions wasn’t easy. The comments about only scoring points because of other drivers’ misfortunes is inaccurate too – you have to keep your car on track and Ricciardo did that. If the 34-year-old gets into a rhythm of scoring points and consistently being in and around Tsunoda, the critics would soon disappear and the chances of that happening are good. He’s a fan of the Spanish Grand Prix, and with RB’s new upgrade package potentially on the way for the next race weekend, it could be a perfect place to get into a run of good performances. 

A great showing in Montreal but he needs to keep it up – Photo: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Jacques Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve’s comments about Ricciardo also need to be addressed, as this is the reason why Ricciardo is such a hot topic of conversation at the moment.

The back and forth between the two is hardly a surprise considering Villeneuve made similar comments back when Ricciardo was dropped by McLaren in 2022, which some may have forgotten about. His comments that time suggested that it was no surprise that Ricciardo was short of suitors and a sabbatical wouldn’t be beneficial as he isn’t a world champion like Fernando Alonso. Those comments were proved wrong when Ricciardo found his way back into the sport last year with Scuderia AlphaTauri

His comments this time took aim at Ricciardo’s entire F1 career, especially since he left Oracle Red Bull Racing in 2018. 

Villenueve said: “Then he was beating for half a season Verstappen when Verstappen was 18 years old, just starting, that was it, he stopped beating anyone after that.”

Ricciardo beat Verstappen in 2016 and 2017, defeating Villeneuve’s original comment about the length only being half of a season, and the 2018 season was very close between the pair, with Ricciardo probably having more bad luck on his side of the garage. Ricciardo also beat both Nico Hülkenberg and Esteban Ocon when he was at Renault.

Ricciardo has eight race wins, and thirty two podiums, with those mostly coming in an era that was dominated by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

Villenueve’s comments about Ricciardo’s current performance aren’t too wide of the mark, but the way he presented the criticism could be considered harsh. It didn’t work out for him at McLaren, that can’t be argued with but to make such a bold statement about his F1 career wasn’t even accurate in comparison to the stats.

Performances such as Mexico 2021 in a poor AlphaTauri car prove Villenueve wrong – Photo: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

The Renault Years

People forget that Ricciardo’s move to Renault made sense at the time – there was a lot of buzz around the team and many expected them to move up the grid quite quickly. While he did have some issues in 2019, his 2020 season and final year with Renault was his most underrated season in the sport. He took the team from the back of the midfield to way higher on the grid than it should’ve been.

Renault were close to pulling out of the sport in 2020, and with the McLaren seat becoming available, you can see why Ricciardo made that move. Many think the two years at Renault were a failure, but when everything is considered, they weren’t, especially 2020.

The Future

Ricciardo’s future is obviously still in doubt, as it is more most drivers on the grid heading into 2025. He was key in developing the car for this season, and taking RB from back markers to the top of the midfield, so despite not performing up to standard so far on track this season, his experience in car development will certainly be considered. 

Christian Horner still believes Ricciardo can deliver in F1, and RB team principal Laurent Mekies has been very complimentary of the eight-time race winner. RB CEO Peter Bayer has consistently mentioned Ricciardo’s influence in car development and setup, so it’s clear to see he still has the backing of the ones whose opinions matter, which didn’t always seem the case at McLaren.

If he doesn’t stay at RB, is it the end of the road? It all depends what Ricciardo wants from his F1 career. A move to MoneyGram Haas F1 Team or a return to Alpine would see him fighting for the bottom end of the points positions – Ricciardo has spoke of his ambition to return to the front of the grid, so would he have the desire to carry on further down the field? Only one man knows and that is Ricciardo. 

The support of the team is very clear despite early season struggles – Photo: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool
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