Alan Jones believes that Daniel Ricciardo's contract with McLaren for 2023 could be tossed aside if the Australian driver isn't able to up his game very soon.
Ricciardo has struggled for pace and form throughout his McLaren tenure since joining the Woking-based team at the start of 2021 and, approaching the halfway point of his three-year deal, he has been completely overshadowed by young teammate Lando Norris.
McLaren have scored 59 points so far this season, with 48 of that total being picked up by Norris.
Speculation about Ricciardo's future has escalated in recent weeks, following McLaren CEO Zak Brown's comments that the Australian has failed to meet the team's expectations.
Brown has also recently spoken about "mechanisms" in Ricciardo's contract which would allow for his removal, should the team wish to do so. These would, presumably, be performance-related clauses.
Ricciardo's future at McLaren "questionable", says Jones
1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has bluntly said that Ricciardo's time at McLaren is over, a sentiment echoed by Alan Jones, who won the World Championship in 1980.
"[His future at McLaren] is questionable at the moment," the Australian title-winner said of his compatriot to the Herald Sun.
"Unless he makes a few improvements, quick smart, I really can’t see him being there for too much longer, to be honest."
This is despite Ricciardo's confirmation to RacingNews365.com that his deal is a straightforward three-year signing, rather than a '2+1' arrangement that would mean summer negotiations to reach a common ground for 2023.
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Jones: F1 contracts don't mean much
Jones said that, regardless of the deal in place, McLaren could opt to drop Ricciardo if needed. While a budget cap of $140 million is in place, driver contracts do not yet fall under this umbrella – meaning that, if the team have the budget, they could afford to pay Ricciardo to sit out the remainder of his deal.
"A contract in F1 doesn’t mean much," Jones commented.
"But, if the situation remains the same as it is, I have no doubt in my mind they will exercise one of those options that are in the contract."
Jones went on to say that Ricciardo's failing may be down to his personable attitude.
"He is a great little race driver and he is a hell of a nice guy," he added.
"But, of course, we all know nice guys don’t get anywhere, particularly in F1.
"The bigger d**k you are, the better off you are. There are a few out there at the moment that have proved that."
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