Pressure is mounting on Daniel Ricciardo after he crashed his car into the barriers during second practice at the Monaco Grand Prix.
The latest setback in an under-whelming season for the Australian brought a sharp response from unhappy team boss Zack Brown.
Brown warned Maclaren had extended their agreement with 23-year-old up-and-coming IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward, who is also eyeing a Formula One seat.
Ricciardo has a contract until 2023, but Brown said there were “mechanisms” in place that could impact negotiations.
“We’ve got both our drivers under contract so nothing imminent but we’re starting a testing program bringing a couple of drivers in and Pato is definitely going to be one of those,” said Brown, who is in Indianapolis for Sunday’s Indy 500 race.
“I don’t want to get into the contract but there are mechanisms which we’re committed to each other and then there are mechanisms which we’re not.
“I spoke to Daniel about it. We’re not getting the results we hoped for but we’re both going to continue to push.
“I think he showed at Monza he can win races. We also need to continue to develop our race car. It is not capable of winning races but we’d like to see him further up the grid.”
O’Ward has collected three victories, four poles and nine podiums since signing with Arrow McLaren in 2020 and the Mexican has given himself a two-year deadline to realise his F1 dream.
Ricciardo failed to set a time in the second practice after smashing his car into the barriers at the swimming pool chicane. He had finished seventh in first practice in Monte Carlo.
Ricciardo, winner with Red Bull in the 2018 race, was uninjured in the incident which saw his left front wheel knocked off.
He was already under pressure with Brown saying he was not generally meeting the team’s expectations.
Ricciardo, 32, told race engineer Tom Stallard he would “explain when he gets back” to the pits.
Later, the West Australian told Sky Sports: “It obviously happens quickly, but it slowed down as well.
“I knew everything that was happening and I tried to save it, but already into Turn 13 I started losing it, I felt the car start to get away from me.
“I think we just pushed a few things with the set up, and pushed a little too far in certain areas. I know they’ll fix it.
“We missed all the session, but I’m OK and I’ll be ready to go tomorrow. We can bounce back.”
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc set the pace in practice for his home race.
Leclerc led teammate Carlos Sainz in a one-two in the second session, lapping the unforgiving street circuit with a fastest lap of one minute 12.656 seconds on a hot and sunny afternoon. He was 0.044 quicker than the Spaniard.
Red Bull’s Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen was fourth in both sessions, with teammate Sergio Perez second and third.
Leclerc, 24, took pole position for the race last year but was unable to start due to a driveshaft problem and Verstappen went on to win.
George Russell was the fastest Mercedes driver in sixth place in the second session, with seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton 10th and 12th.
Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris was withdrawn from his media commitments on Friday as he battles tonsillitis, but the 22-year-old made light of his illness to finish the day in fifth position.