Australia

Ricciardo’s silver lining in McLaren move

Fresh off signing Aussie Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren are reportedly set to sell a large stake of its Formula One team in order to raise “hundreds of millions of pounds to steer it through the COVID-19 crisis”.

Sources told Sky News it was in "a conceptual stage" and was being discussed among other funding options with the stake reportedly 20 to 30 per cent.

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It could be a good sign for the company with the sale believed to enable the team to survive at a sustainable level when the $A220 million budget cap comes in from next season.

Ricciardo, who signed for McLaren in May for the 2021 season after a troubled stint with Renault in 2019, will be looking to turn around his championship hopes with the new team, especially when they take on Mercedes engines from 2021.

And new regulations to be in place from the 2022 season, which are expected to create a seismic shift in the Formula One world, could play into Ricciardo’s hands.

While there has been plenty of discussion on how Ricciardo’s latest move will play out, it ends a difficult period for the 30-year-old as he seemingly nears the latter stages of his career.

On the F1 Nation podcast last week, former Aussie Red Bull star Mark Webber said it could have been the best option possible for Ricciardo, better even than going to Ferrari.

“So with the Mercedes engine, I think the independent teams, especially McLaren, are going to do pretty well out of this new stuff going forward,” he said.

“I think it’s all upside for them. I don’t see any downside for McLaren if they can get through this tough time. Their main lap time must get closer to the pole position.”

If McLaren can improve from fourth to get Ricciardo a car that can challenge the big three teams over the next few years, the Aussie is confident he can get the job done and chase down an elusive Drivers Championship.

McLaren does have a championship winning pedigree, having had 12 Drivers Championship wins with the last in 2008 and eight Constructors Championship wins.

While Lewis Hamilton has claimed six world titles to be one behind Michael Schumacher’s record, Ricciardo has had seven Grand Prix wins in his career but believes he’s one of the best drivers on the grid.

“I’m in that top group (of drivers),” Ricciardo told AutoCar. “As far as talent or ability to push a car to the limit – the skill set – there are a few of us that can get there.

“We need the right car, and then, for this (top) group, the difference is less about speed and more about the ability to nail results race after race. On a given day, a few of us could win. Where you have to hand it to Lewis is that he does it time and time again.”

Webber also said he was shocked that Ricciardo didn’t end up at Ferrari, with Carlos Sainz signing for the Italian giants.

“It’s been twice that the Maranello opportunity was there,” Webber said.

“For whatever reason – we all think it’s just a total slam dunk that it should happen – but it hasn’t.

“Why couldn’t he agree terms with Maranello, were they motivated? I know he’s close to Charles, is he too close to Charles? I have no idea, is that something they would have considered?”

But with the 2020 season to start with two races in Austria from July 3, Ricciardo hit the track again, driving 115 laps in Renault’s 2018 car earlier this week.

Ricciardo posted a clip of himself in the car on Instagram and wrote: "Remembered what driving fast felt like today. It was fun. Cool. Alright. Cya later."

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