As Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 season continues from hell, he has received unusual support amid his ongoing struggle.
Australia is clearly well aware of speculation that Daniel Ricciardo’s Formula 1 career is in serious turmoil.
Ricciardo has struggled in his second season at McLaren, having finished in the points just once out of seven races so far this season.
Pressure on the Australian to perform is mounting after McLaren boss Zak Brown said he has not lived up to expectations since joining the team and hinted at an escape clause in Ricciardo’s contract if his poor results persist.
Stream all the action from the F1 Azerbaijan GP on Kayo this weekend. Pre-race coverage starts on Sunday at 7:30 PM AEST, with live racing from 9:00 PM. New to Kayo? Try now 14 days free >
Ricciardo brushed off criticism earlier this week, but his form remains the talk of the paddock and Australian F1 fans.
As a show of solidarity, the Optus Stadium in Ricciardo’s home city of Perth is lit up with papaya – the orange color of his McLaren team.
Ricciardo has a long-standing partnership with Optus, who have lent their support to the 32-year-old as there is mounting speculation that he could be dumped by McLaren before his contract expires at the end of 2023 and as early as this year.
“Given the crazy speculation in the press about Daniel and his future, we wanted to send a message of support,” Mel Hopkins, Optus vice president of marketing, said per Speedcafe.com.
“Not only do we have the ultimate belief that Daniel will continue to beat it in the world of F1 and beyond, but we also know that the power of an entire nation chasing you and standing behind you is the best dose of optimism we can to give.
“Go the honey badger – you make us proud!”
It’s a slightly different show of support for the Sydney Harbor Bridge turning purple in honor of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, but it’s another sign that Ricciardo’s F1 career is on shaky ground.
Ricciardo has spoken to McLaren bosses to clear the air, saying the constant discussion about his future has “lit a fire in me”.
“Part of me loves it. That’s the truth,” Ricciardo told Formula1.com ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that he wanted to answer his critics.
“Because I mean, one thing I love about this sport and I think if you’re trying to get to the top somewhere, you’re always going to be in the spotlight — and there’s always going to be that attention, that pressure, and when you can perform under those circumstances, it is one of the most powerful and rewarding feelings.
“So I know there’s obviously chatter and let’s say definitely some noise right now, but for me it’s a good reason to push back in a way and remind people of it, but first and foremost, like myself remember I can still do it, so I don’t doubt.
“So yeah, it’s fun, and I don’t have a problem with people talking because I haven’t really done anything spectacular this year. So I know it’s part of the area, but deep down I still know what I’m capable of and I’m looking forward to hopefully showing this sooner rather than later.
“I like the doubt, it’s like creating this nice fire in me, so I’m enjoying it a lot.”
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix starts on Sunday at 9 p.m. (AEST).
Originally published as Australia’s desperate attempt to rescue Daniel Ricciardo amid F1 troubles