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Daniel Ricciardo CONTROVERSY shows a possible future of F1

Daniel Ricciardo CONTROVERSY shows a possible future of F1

Daniel Ricciardo CONTROVERSY shows a possible future of F1

Daniel Ricciardo CONTROVERSY shows a possible future of F1

Given the chaotic changes in weather, the huge improvement in performance of a couple of the teams chasing down Red Bull, and the thoroughly entertaining amount of overtakes and incidents, you’d be forgiven for thinking the on-track action would have dominated the discourse around Formula 1’s latest Canadian Grand Prix.

Not quite. Despite the commotion at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, triple world champion Max Verstappen still ended up taking victory and extending his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship. Next up are two events – Spain and Austria - at which Red Bull usually excel, so the overall narrative of the 2024 campaign has shifted very little overall.

Instead, the hottest talking point from Montreal was 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve’s complete evisceration of RB driver Daniel Ricciardo’s entire career.

READ MORE: Red Bull OFFICIALLY sign Verstappen team-mate for next two seasons

Speaking live on Sky Sports F1 during coverage of Friday’s practice sessions, former Williams racer Villeneuve lambasted the past, present and future of Ricciardo’s time in Formula 1 in a tirade which stunned his fellow pundits on air and set social media ablaze.

“Why is he still in F1? Why?”, Villeneuve posited. “We’re hearing the same thing now for the last four or five years: ‘we have to make the car better for him, poor him'. Sorry, it’s been five years of that. No - you’re in F1!

“Maybe you make that effort for Lewis Hamilton who’s won multiple championships. You don’t make that effort for a driver that can’t cut it. If you can’t cut it, go home, there’s someone else who can take your place.

Jacques Villeneuve is not Daniel Ricciardo's biggest fan

“That’s how it’s always been in racing. This is the pinnacle of the sport, there’s no reason to keep going and to keep finding excuses.

“You all talk about that first season or first two seasons,” he continued. “He was beating a Vettel that was burnt out, that was trying to invent things with the car to go win and just making a mess of his weekends.

“Then he was beating - for half a season – Verstappen he was 18 years old, just starting, then that was it. He stopped beating anyone after that.”

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His bamboozled colleagues were left stunned, and a moment’s stunned silence led to a chastening chink of dead air in which viewers at home were no doubt watching on with mouth agape too.

In a matter of seconds, Villeneuve had ripped up the rulebook for modern Formula 1 broadcasting. Sky were only too pleased with his efforts, posting the clipped version of his brutal assessment to social media and drawing in an immense trawl of engagement in the aftermath.

Ricciardo himself obviously disagreed. He qualified fifth on Saturday before insisting he would not give Villeneuve “the time of day” by dignifying his comments with a formal response. The Australian then dropped to eighth position in the race, his best result of the 2024 season so far.

Whether people agree with Villeneuve – making a rare appearance on UK television away from his usual French-language commitments with Canal+ - is not why the segment was important. Nor was whether Ricciardo proved him correct or quashed his claims entirely with his performance across the rest of the weekend. The reason the clip took off to the extent it did was that it represented an enormous change of pace from the typical grand prix broadcast.

Make no mistake, coverage of Formula 1 is largely excellent. The quality of analysis from pundits like Nico Rosberg, Karun Chandhok and Naomi Schiff provides genuinely useful insight into the mindset of teams, drivers, and strategists, the implementation of technology helps render extremely complicated subject matters comprehensible to the layperson, and the access international TV channels have to the paddock’s key players mean those on the frontline speak directly to fans far more often than in the vast majority of other sports.

But it is also true that the closed and inherently small nature of the Formula 1 paddock can often render coverage neutral, safe, and chummy. Broadcasts rarely tolerate the kind off-piste shift in dynamic that Villeneuve so unexpectedly unleashed when he was asked to comment on Ricciardo’s situation.

Listening to Villeneuve – a generally acidic character whose own racing career tailed off significantly in later years, and whose tax affairs have long been the source of political controversy in his native Canada – air his various grievances and grudges would no doubt grow tiresome if repeated on a weekly basis.

The fact remains though that coverage of Formula 1 can from time-to-time benefit from switching up the same cast of characters mulling over the same talking points seasons after season.

Perhaps Villeneuve shouldn’t be given the call up for every race weekend from now on, then, and maybe throwing the kitchen sink at individual drivers on a regular basis isn’t exactly best practice either.

But broadcasters and F1 itself can learn from the controversy surrounding the segment that eschewing the orderly, clinical running order for a bit more personality can liven things up off-track, especially in seasons when even the more exciting races end with the most predictable of outcomes.

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