McLaren boss Zak Brown admits that it was "challenging" to be judged on the decision for the team to part ways with Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo had endured a difficult spell with the squad since joining in 2021, and it was confirmed over the summer of 2022 that both parties had mutually agreed to end their multi-year contract early.
This left the Australian without a seat on the grid for 2023, with McLaren bringing in rookie Oscar Piastri as his replacement to join Lando Norris at the team.
Brown says that Ricciardo's exit from the outfit was one aspect of what proved to be a challenging 12 months overall.
"It's been a very tough year," Brown said in an interview for McLaren.
"And it's personal, business is personal. Specifically Daniel, who's been tremendous to work with and gave us our first win [at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix].
"We had a lot of fun together, and we had a lot of frustration together that it didn't work."
Brown reflects on 'challenging' aspect of Ricciardo exit
With Ricciardo's exit sparking lots of external reaction, Brown feels that this aspect of the sport can be difficult to deal with at times.
"I think the challenging part is being judged by people that aren't really close to it," he explained.
"Everyone has an opinion and that's fine. That's sport; I think you can't be in sport and not have a thick skin, [because] the fans in the grandstands or the media are going to have their views.
"You just need to be grounded in... I know what really happened. I know the relationship that I really have with Daniel and his management, and how transparent it was and how collaborative it was.
"It wasn't easy on anyone, but it wasn't what a lot of people made it out to be. That's frustrating, because you kind of unfairly get accused of certain actions, which you know – and he knows, and those that are close to it know – that's actually not what happened.
"But we're in a high profile sport, and what makes our sport great are fans that have opinions. I think in today's day and age, unfortunately, we're seeing a lot of people that overstep what's an appropriate comment, but that's the world we live in.
"I think as long as those that are close to us know what really happened, you just kind of roll with the punches."
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Brown hopes to see Ricciardo back on the grid
Brown acknowledges that having Ricciardo leave the team was not easy, with the Australian's victory at Monza in 2021 remaining a special memory.
"It was tough. We all love Daniel," Brown said.
"He's such a great spirit in the garage and on the radio and at the MTC [McLaren Technology Centre]. But sometimes things don't work out and it's kind of a great mystery, because he definitely has the talent.
"He showed us that in Monza. He's won eight Grands Prix. That's not because everyone got wiped out in Turn 1 in Monza – he took the lead and he was gone.
"So [it is] frustrating for all of us, but the memory of Monza is – to date – my favorite memory in my 30 years in motorsports, and I've got to thank Daniel for that."
Ricciardo will spend 2023 as a reserve driver at Red Bull but has voiced an intention to return to the F1 grid in 2024, something that Brown is keen to see happen.
"I very much hope to see him on the grid again in Formula 1, which is his desire,' the team boss added.
"The door remains open for him to be in some McLaren in the future. If the stars aligned. I'd love to go racing with him again."
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