Ricciardo hopes the noise and distractions of recent controversies will ‘start to slowly go away’ whereas Hamilton says F1 has ‘reached a pivotal moment’

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Formula One has found itself on the front of newspapers as well as the back in recent weeks. When this happens, it is usually due to celebrating the crowning of an F1 Drivers’ World Champion or due to moments of controversy. Sadly, as many an F1 fan no doubt knows, it is the latter which has been reason for filling the column inches of late. Now, the drivers have been speaking out and the comments vary in content seeing how Daniel Ricciardo hopes this noise ‘will slowly start to go away’ and seven-time F1 Drivers’ World Champion Lewis Hamilton claims F1 has ‘reached a pivotal moment’.

Max Verstappen looks set to dominate the 2024 F1 Drivers’ World Championship after his crushing victory at the opening round of the season in Bahrain. At a time when it seems that no one has the power to beat Red Bull Racing the real danger to the team could very well come from within.

Due to his association with Red Bull Racing, Daniel Ricciardo was recently asked in the media pen as to whether the current situation will destabilise Red Bull Racing. The much-loved Aussie responded in a way showing that he is eager for the sport to move on.

“You always want things to be smoother than they are of course. Like right now, there’s a lot of noise and distractions that no doubt…” Ricciardo said before breaking off his sentence. “Look, at the way they [Red Bull Racing] performed last week…for them to be able to still focus on business on track that is also a big strength of theirs. So, yeah, hopefully these things start to slowly go away and they can just focus on being a race team but of course for the drivers as well you know it’s not always easy, but I think they did a good job in handling this.”

Daniel Ricciardo has a big year ahead of him with a clear focus on returning back to Red Bull Racing and pairing up with Max Verstappen once again. The man currently carrying out this role is Sergio Perez, and he was asked directly by the media as to whether Christian Horner has his backing to continue as Red Bull Team Principal.

“Yes, he does,” Perez stated before continuing. “And I think not only my support but, the full team is fully behind him. “He’s obviously a very important person in our organisation, and the job that he’s done over the years, speaks for themselves. And I think Christian is a key team player in this organisation. And I think he’s fully focused on the racing side.”

Perez did go on to explain how he does not know what is going but made clear the role as he sees it within the team: “At the end of the day, I’m a racing driver and that’s what I’m here to do. I don’t get into politics, I drive the car as quickly as I can, as fast as I can. I prepare the very best I can. Then I go home, and I have a life out of this sport. I’ve never been really part of what’s going on, outside of the sport. So, my main focus is to deliver on track.”

The focus of Wednesday’s Press Conference in Jeddah was also on the hot topics of discussion, to which Lance Stroll simply replied, “I just like driving cars.” Valtteri Bottas took a similar tone in his reply but also highlighted why he feels the stories are getting considerable airtime.

“Yeah, same for me,” Bottas said in agreement with Stroll. “In the end, we are here to do our job, which is what we love, which is to race. And there’s always talk in this sport, sometimes more, sometimes less. I feel like this year, off track, maybe a bit much. But I mean, if people read those things, then it’s a good thing for the media, right?”

As for Nico Hülkenberg, he takes no interest in it as it doesn’t affect him on a personal level.

“The stuff that happens in the paddock right now? Obviously, I’m not really affected. I read it, I see it, but I think we are, when you’re active, you’re so focused on what you do that you don’t really buy into it. Obviously, I’m not up there, so I’m even less affected. I don’t really have an interest or an agenda there. So, yeah, not much to say.”

With many a soundbite and headline already generated from the day’s remarks, George Russell was also asked how he feels about the big cloud currently over the sport.

“Yeah, I think… Well, two things. I feel that the racing needs to be at the forefront of everything,” expressed the Director of the GPDA. “And this is what we all love and what we’re here to fight for. And it’s a shame when that isn’t the forefront of the media attention. But equally, Formula 1 is at the forefront of technology. I think from an entertainment standpoint, I think we’ve been really pushing the boundaries in the last few years. And we do need to create an environment that is inclusive for everybody. We’re seeing the demographic change over the past couple of years, and it does need to be inclusive. So unfortunately, you need to have these hard conversations and questions. And going back to the earlier point, you want to see transparency within all of these reports, because ultimately, until we see the facts, we can’t really comment. But yeah.”

The questioning continued up and down the paddock, seeing how Lando Norris was asked for his opinion on where the sport is at the moment.

“I mean, thankfully, I’m not in any of it,” stated Norris. “So, I’m OK. There is noise. It’s definitely not, I think, what we should have as a sport. It should only be about racing and what drivers do between one another when we’re at the tracks. I don’t think the sport should be interrupted by what happens away from the circuit. That’s got nothing to do with racing.”

Photo Credit: McLaren Racing

Norris then went on to explain how as much as he understands that these events are inevitably going to generate news stories. There is a limit to what he should be asked.

“So, that can be a headline somewhere else, but it shouldn’t impact what the chatter is or why I shouldn’t be getting asked about what happens in people’s private lives. Norris remarked on the issue. “It’s got nothing to do with me. So, I try and stay out of it as much as possible. It’s got nothing to do with me, it shouldn’t. It’s not why I’m here. So yes, I guess it distracts it and people want headlines and stuff. But it’s got nothing to do with Formula One and it’s got nothing to do with McLaren and myself. Which is also a good thing because it allows us to focus on what we want to do. But as a sport, it shouldn’t be something that happens either.”

However, it has not only been allegations of misconduct by Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner which has stirred discussion. Most recently, it came to light that there is an internal investigation involving FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem. In remarks published on Motorsport.com, seven-time F1 Drivers’ World Champion Lewis Hamilton joined the discussion.

“As someone who loves the sport, it’s definitely disappointing to see what’s going on right now,” the Mercedes driver said. “It doesn’t look good from the outside world, the outside looking in.

Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

“I think it’s a really, really important time for the sport to really show and stick to its values, holding ourselves accountable for our actions. And it’s a really, really pivotal moment, I think, for the sport, in terms of what we project to the world, and how it’s handled. And it’s not been handled very well to this point.

“Transparency is really key. And I’m really, really hoping to see some progress moving forwards. I hope it’s not a year that continues to go on with this. But it highlights some of the issues we also have within the sport. And when we’re talking about diversity, inclusion, that inclusion for example, and making people feel comfortable in this environment, is key. And it’s clearly not the case.”

Hamilton’s remarks on the topic later saw him explain the importance of fans being able to trust us and that they need to be able to trust the sport. Having been racing in the pinnacle of motorsport for many years, the 39-year-old superstar was also pragmatic in as much that “This is not the part of the sport that I love. But you find these things, I guess, in business. It definitely is an interesting time.”

Hamilton also reflected on the form Red Bull Racing is in and the job ahead of his team.

“We’ve had the Schumacher dominance, you had my era of dominance, it happens all the time. And I think we can’t take anything away from Red Bull. They’ve done such an amazing job. I mean, all of what they’ve done as a team, I think it’s really great. And they really raised the bar so high, so we’re all striving to get to that. It would be great if we were all having a closer battle. But I think that’s what’s being worked on,” concluded Hamilton.