And it is going to take a lot more than a fifth place in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix – and a curt response to the 1997 world champion – to secure it.

Unsurprisingly, Villeneuve's takedown ahead of qualifying for the Canadian GP has attracted plenty of attention.

Signed by Sky Sports F1 for this weekend, presumably largely for his forthright opinions, it is difficult to disagree with Villeneuve's assessment of the eight-time GP winner, who looks a shadow of his former self.

"Why's he still in F1? Why?" said Villeneuve. "We are 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 are in F1.  Maybe you make that effort for Lewis Hamilton who has 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 to take your place. That's how it's always been in racing, it's the pinnacle of the sport.

"There's no reason to keep going and to keep finding excuses."

Jacques Villeneuve

Photo by: Erik Junius

Ricciardo responded with one of his best qualifying performances of the season to post the fifth-quickest time – and in his post-qualifying media session, he hit back at Villeneuve.

He said: "I heard he has been talking shit, but he always does. I think he has hit his head a few too many times. I don't know if he plays ice hockey or something.

"I won't give him the time of day, all those people can suck it."

Ricciardo added that he had done some much-needed self-reflection after the last race in Monaco, which while admirable begs the question why it was required in the first place.

Let's remember he turned down an opportunity to race in F1 and sought to mutually terminate his deal with McLaren a year earlier, citing a need to refocus after unsuccessful spells with the Woking team and with Renault.

As speculation grew about his future in F1, he entered the paddock in Austin for the 2022 US GP riding on a horse while dressed in a cowboy hat and a Stars and Stripes jacket.

He had appeared to have checked out and was heading off into the sunset.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, on a horse

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

His decision to rejoin Red Bull in 2023 in a third driver and commercial role gave reason to further question his ambition to find a way back on the grid.

Yet he was offered the opportunity with AlphaTauri as a replacement for the under-performing Nyck de Vries after a successful Pirelli tyre test driving the RB19 at Silverstone following the British GP.

Red Bull saw his lap times were competitive and importantly he offered them a form of security that had not existed with de Vries or Yuki Tsunoda at the time, while his arrival also kept the pressure on Sergio Perez.

Fast forward 11 months and it is an entirely different picture. Red Bull has the confidence to secure Perez for another two seasons and its sister team activated the option on Tsunoda for another year.

It leaves Ricciardo as the only Red Bull driver out of contract for 2025 and there is now a sense that, despite his strong words in Montreal post-qualifying, that it could already be too little, too late for the 34-year-old.

His performances have left Red Bull underwhelmed and it is understood there is no commercial tie-in between Ricciardo and RB’s title sponsor Visa Cash App.

Meanwhile, its reserve driver Liam Lawson has bided his time on the sidelines since he impressed filling in for Ricciardo for four rounds after the latter had broken his hand in a crash at the Dutch GP.

Daniel Ricciardo, Visa Cash App RB F1 Team and Laurent Mekies, Team Principal, RB F1 Team, on the pit wall

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Lawson underlined his potential with a ninth-placed finish in Singapore while in his 15 grands prix for the team, Ricciardo has also only finished in the points at the 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix and the 2024 Miami GP sprint.

Lawson, 22, is highly rated by Red Bull and the natural fit for RB for next season, plus he would be a tick for the team's young driver programme with a move expected to be too soon for Isack Hadjar, who is currently second in the F2 championship.

For the meantime, there is no hurry for RB to confirm its line-up for 2025 but that said, time is running out for Ricciardo to stake a serious claim, should he even wish to remain in F1.

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2024-06-09T13:19:18Z dg43tfdfdgfd