'First I heard': McLaren sign Piastri despite publicly backing Ricciardo for 2023

‘First I heard’: McLaren sign Piastri despite publicly backing Ricciardo for 2023

Daniel Ricciardo says he was unaware McLaren had already signed Oscar Piastri to a two-year deal on July 4, a month before the team told him it intended to ax him for 2023.

Piastri’s contract with McLaren was upheld by the FIA’s contract recognition committee on Friday after Alpine claimed it still had the rights to the young Australian, who is a member of its youth driver academy.

A statement from the board revealed that McLaren had submitted a contract for the 2023 and 2024 seasons signed on July 4, the Monday after the British Grand Prix.

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CONFIRMED: Aussie Oscar Piastri to replace Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren from 2023

Ricciardo was told after the Hungarian Grand Prix on 31 July that the team intended to replace him and his contract was only terminated last week.

Ricciardo said on Friday night after the CRB announcement in the Netherlands that he was unaware that Piastri was already under contract with McLaren for a month before the mid-season break.

“To be honest, that’s the first time I’ve heard about that date,” he told Sky Sports. “I’m not aware of the timelines and what the team is discussing.

“As far as timelines go – I also think what the Oscar team is preparing – that’s none of my business as far as the day they talked, this or that.”

“If that’s the case, then yes. It’s not really my decision.”

However, he admitted that talks about his performance had been going on for months.

“To be honest, even before this date, let’s say months, we already discussed not about my future, but of course where we can improve to try to have a better future with the team.

“I am aware that there will be talks.

Speaking to reporters at the Dutch Grand Prix, McLaren boss Andreas Seidl denied any fraud in his contract negotiations.

“Obviously we’re not going into the details of what was in the contract we signed with Oscar,” he said. “In terms of Daniel, as we communicated last week, I think throughout this year, Zak (Brown, CEO) and I have had an open and transparent dialogue with Daniel whenever we are both.

“Therefore, there is no problem in that respect.

Both Seidl and Brown were vocal in their support for Ricciardo in the week before and after Piastri’s July 4 signing.

Asked by Fox Sports in the week of the British Grand Prix whether Ricciardo would see out his McLaren contract, Brown replied: “Oh yes.

“We like working with him. He loves the team. We saw that if we give him a car that is capable of winning, he can win in it.”

But Ricciardo turned in one of his worst performances of the season at Silverstone, qualifying 14th and finishing second to last only ahead of AlphaTauri’s damaged Yuki Tsunoda. Lando Norris qualified and finished sixth.

Speculation about the Australian staying at McLaren, already a major storyline at the time, then flared up, prompting Ricciardo to post on social media insisting he would see the deal through.

“I am committed to McLaren until the end of next year and I am not leaving the sport,” he said. “I appreciate that it wasn’t always easy, but who wants easy! I am working with the team on improvements to get the car right and back to the front where it belongs.

“I still want it more than ever.

Seidl echoed Ricciardo’s determination, saying the following week: “From our point of view, there was never any need for speculation.

“From our side, we were clear that we had a contract and our only goal is to find those last percentages in terms of performance with Daniel.

“That’s what we’re focusing on. The statement wasn’t a surprise, it just confirmed where we’re both at together, which is consistent with what we’ve been saying for months.”

It has been suggested that McLaren initially signed a one-plus-one deal with Piastri as a reserve driver, with the option to convert it to a race contract once Ricciardo’s situation was clarified.

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