Daniel Ricciardo’s passion for F1 has been called into question by 1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, who has criticised the Aussie for remaining in the sport simply to ‘smile in commercials’.
The 34-year-old returned to the F1 grid at the Hungarian Grand Prix, replacing Nyck de Vries for AlphaTauri after the F2 and Formula E world champion was axed by Helmut Marko following just ten races in that seat.
Ricciardo showed solid if unspectacular pace during his first two races back in F1 at the Hungaroring and Spa, before injuring his hand at the Dutch Grand Prix. He has since been on the sidelines recovering but is expected to return to the cockpit for the United States Grand Prix next weekend.
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Villeneuve, however, is not impressed with Ricciardo’s attitude to F1. Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, he was asked to name his favourite drivers on the grid, replying: “I admire Fernando Alonso because he is hungry.
“It’s the difference that a great driver makes. I would ask kids who want to be drivers today – do you want it out of passion or because you want to be like Daniel Ricciardo, smiling in commercials?”
While Villeneuve has questioned Ricciardo’s passion for the sport, the Aussie argues that his desire to fight for his F1 future has been fully restored after taking a half-year sabbatical following his premature departure from McLaren at the end of the 2022 season.
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“At the time, it was a bit of a harsh reality getting fired,” Ricciardo told Goodwood.com. “But by the end of the season, when I got home for Christmas, I was like, ‘Okay, it probably doesn’t help my reputation’, but at that point, I didn’t care anymore. It was a blessing in disguise.
“Then it got to the end of January, I’ve probably done two months of just holidays, and I was starting to be like, ‘Okay, I don’t really want to fall into this, having a beer every day, having fun’. I didn’t feel I was at that point, that I didn’t want to become a bit of a slob.”
Despite his time away from full-time Grand Prix racing, Ricciardo is still believed to be Red Bull’s favoured option to replace Sergio Perez should they part company with the 33-year-old at the end of the 2023 campaign.
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