June 12th, 2024

Ricciardo claps back at Villeneuve’s criticism: ‘He’s hit his head too many times’

By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on June 8, 2024.

Team RB driver Daniel Ricciardo, of Australia, gets ready for the second practice session at the Canadian Grand Prix Friday, June 7, 2024 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL – Daniel Ricciardo let Jacques Villeneuve hear it in more ways than one after the Canadian racing legend suggested he should no longer be in Formula One.

Villeneuve, the 1997 F1 world champion and son of Gilles Villeneuve, ranted in a Sky Sports television broadcast Friday that Ricciardo was no longer cut out for the circuit.

The 34-year-old Ricciardo of the RB F1 team responded at the Canadian Grand Prix on Saturday by placing fifth in qualifying, his best result of the season.

Then he clapped back at Villeneuve directly after the session.

“I still don’t know what he said, but I heard he’s been talking (crap), but he always does,” Ricciardo said. “I think he’s hit his head a few too many times, I don’t know if he plays ice hockey or something.”

Ricciardo has eight Grand Prix wins and 32 podiums in his F1 career but hasn’t reached the same level of success in recent years.

The Australian’s last win was at the Italian Grand Prix in 2021. This season, he has five points for placing fourth in a sprint race in Miami.

Villeneuve lit a flame on social media with his brutally harsh comments about Ricciardo’s struggles.

“Why is he still in F1?” he said. “We’re hearing the same thing now for the last four, five years – we have to make it better for him, poor him. It’s been five years of that. Sorry, 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. Can’t cut it? Go home, there’s someone else who can take your place.”

Villeneuve also discredited Ricciardo’s previous success at Red Bull, where he drove next to four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and three-time defending titleholder Max Verstappen.

“You all talk about that first season or first two seasons, he was beating a Vettel that was burned out,” Villeneuve said. “Then he was beating for half a season Verstappen when he was 18 years old, just starting. Then that was it. He stopped beating anyone after that.”

To cap it off, Villeneuve suggested Ricciardo’s reputation as one of the sport’s best personalities was keeping him on the grid.

“His image has kept him in F1 more than his actual result,” Villeneuve said.

Ricciardo proved he still has chops as a driver with Saturday’s performance in Montreal, where he earned his first race win exactly 10 years ago Saturday.

“I’ve obviously been highly motivated to do more than I have been this year,” he said. “I know how good those results feel, and that’s why I do it, to feel those highs.

“Coming into the week everything felt right. I was really happy to come back to this circuit and drive here because I love it. Today’s 10 years to the day of my first win, and that day changed my life. So there’s just a lot of nice emotions coming into it.”

– With files from Tommy Thurber

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2024.

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