As Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 season from hell continues, he’s received some unusual support amid his ongoing struggles.
Australia is clearly well aware of the speculation Daniel Ricciardo’s Formula One career is in serious turmoil.
Ricciardo has struggled in his second campaign at McLaren and has finished in the points just once out of seven races so far this season.
Pressure is mounting on the Australian to perform after McLaren boss Zak Brown said he hasn’t met expectations since joining the team and hinted at a get-out clause in Ricciardo’s contract should his poor results continue.
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Ricciardo brushed off the criticism earlier this week but his form remains the talk of the paddock and Australian F1 fans.
In a show solidarity, Optus Stadium in Ricciardo’s home city of Perth has been illuminated papaya — the orange color of his McLaren team.
Ricciardo has had a long association with Optus, which has put its support behind the 32-year-old as speculation mounts he could be dumped by McLaren before his contract expires at the end of 2023 and even as soon as this year.
“Given the crazy press speculation around Daniel and his future, we wanted to send a message of support,” Optus vice president of marketing Mel Hopkins said, per Speedcafe.com.
“We have not only the ultimate belief that Daniel will continue to smash it in the world of F1 and beyond, but additionally know that the power of an entire nation gunning for you and having your back is the best dose of optimism we can give.
“Go the honey badger – you make us proud!”
It’s a slightly different show of support to the Sydney Harbor Bridge turning purple in honor of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, but is another sign Ricciardo’s F1 career is on shaky ground.
Ricciardo has spoken with McLaren’s bosses to clear the air and said the constant discussion around his future has “lit a fire inside me”.
“Part of me loves it. Like, that’s the truth,” Ricciardo told Formula1.com ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix about wanting to answer his critics.
“Because I mean, one thing I love about this sport and I think trying to get to the top of something, you’re always going to be under the spotlight – and there’s always going to be that attention, that pressure, and when you can execute under those circumstances, it’s one of the most powerful and rewarding feelings.
“So I know that there is obviously chatter and let’s say certainly some noise at the moment, but for me, it’s like, a good reason to in a way like push back and just to remind people, but first and foremost, like remind myself that I can still do it, so I have no doubts.
“So yeah, it’s fun, and I have no issue with people talking because I haven’t really done anything spectacular this year. So I know that it comes with the territory but deep down I still know what I’m capable of and I look forward to showing this hopefully sooner rather than later.
“I like the doubt, it’s like creating this nice little fire inside me, so I thoroughly enjoy it.”
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix gets underway on Sunday at 9pm (AEST).