Jenson Button is “surprised” by Zak Brown’s public criticism of Daniel Ricciardo, saying teams should protect their drivers.
Ricciardo admits he is finding this season tough, the driver bagging just one top-ten result in seven races.
That led McLaren CEO Brown to telling the world that Ricciardo had “not met expectations” at McLaren since joining the team in 2021.
The Aussie agreed saying it is “not false, it’s pretty true” before brushing off the criticism with a “my skin is tanned, beautiful and also thick” quip.
Brown then went one further, revealing there “mechanisms” in place in which McLaren do not have to honour Ricciardo’s three-year deal.
Button isn’t impressed with Brown’s managing of the situation.
Speaking on Sky Sports F1’s Any Driven Monday show, Button said: “Zak is his own man and I can’t change his thoughts and what he says, but I was surprised that he came out and said that.
“Everyone with the team should be protecting these drivers.
“Formula 1 is a real mental game. They all have immense skill but you don’t perform if your head is not in the right place.
“I was surprised Zak came out and said he was not meeting expectations – we all know that. But when your team principal comes out and says that, it definitely hurts. From Daniel’s response, it hurt.
“I’m hoping that they have talked since the race and they can just focus on really getting the best out of Daniel and the team around him for the rest of the year. Then we’ll see where he ends up in the future. It’s not an easy situation for a driver.
“And then everything we see – he had the incident and the engineer said, ‘is the car okay?’ And Daniel replied, ‘I’m okay’. We all pick up on that as soon as we hear Zak be kind of negative about Daniel. It just spirals out of control.”
That conversation Button referred to was between Ricciardo and his engineer in the immediate aftermath of his Monaco GP practice crash where it seemed McLaren were more concerned about the car than the driver.
But while Ricciardo has made it clear that he has a deal in place for next season, Button says if McLaren want him out, he doesn’t foresee the 32-year-old pushing the situation.
“Daniel came into the team in a very strong position,” he said. “I would say the contract is more in his favour, but there will always be clauses.
“To be fair, if a team doesn’t want you driving for them, you don’t want to be there – and vice versa. Normally there’s an easier way out of it than just the clauses in the contract.”
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