Daniel Ricciardo has rejected rumors that he could lose his McLaren race seat, reiterating his commitment to the team through to the end of next season.
Ricciardo’s tenure at McLaren has been the subject of intense speculation since the last two rounds in Spain and Monaco, where he was comprehensively beaten by teammate Lando Norris despite the latter’s struggle with tonsillitis and failed to score points, extending his run of dry races to six from seven grands prix.
Pressure was ratcheted up by team CEO Zak Brown declaring publicly that the Australian wasn’t meeting expectations and then openly discussing exit clauses in his contract. But speaking ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Ricciardo said he retained the confidence of Brown and the team and was committed for the long haul.
“Firstly [Zak and I] have spoken — we’ve had a catch-up,” Ricciardo said. “I think nothing needed to be elaborated on. Sometimes I’m guilty of it as well, getting caught up in the media and not always making total sense of things and I just like to talk!
“My contract is clear with the team until the end of next year. I’m fully committed; I’ve certainly voiced that, and it’s obviously now just on track to show it and show these moments and these races I know I’m capable of.
“I have the full support of the team and we want to do it together.”
Addressing the sheer volume of speculation about his ability to extract performance from the McLaren, Ricciardo said he welcomed the spotlight and could use it to turn his campaign around.
“I like pressure,” he said. “It’s a good platform to perform on, and it’s also why I signed up to this. I love it. Success after struggle always tastes sweeter, so that’s what I look forward to.
“I guess at the end of the day people care — I think it’s why I’m probably being talked about finishing 13th. People know I can be better, and I guess it speaks to my results in the past and me as a driver, that people believe in me, simply.”
Ricciardo insisted that he still had belief in himself too — and he promised a swift recovery from his early-season trough.
“I know I can still do it,” he said. “I think in this sport that everything operates at such a high level and if something’s a little bit out of tune, it can have a carry-on effect, so it’s really just for me to get back in that place where I’m fully in tune with the car and then it’ll come.
“I have felt it before. I think it could come at any circuit and I think from there it’ll probably start to build again some nice rhythm — a little bit like the second half of last year where we started to build some of that. It’s taken longer than I would have liked to get the results and consistency week in week out, but it’s not far off.
“I don’t want to keep talking about Monza, but there were obviously times last year where I was able to show that I can make it work with this car, and I do think we’re closer this year than last year, funnily enough.
“It’s not as far away as it probably seems. I have confidence it can happen quickly. I’m just going to cross the line now with less people in front of me and more behind me and everything’s sweet.”