In a peculiar twist of fate, could we see McLaren’s outgoing Daniel Ricciardo make a shock move to Mercedes AMG F1 as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton? Paddock rumour is rife with a continuation of this year’s silly season (perhaps one of the silliest ‘since records began’), TJ13 understands that talks are at an advanced stage and we will almost certainly see the Australian driving for the German team, Wolff not confident he’ll retain his 7 time Champion.
According to an exclusive report in the British Daily Mail, Toto Wolff’s team are thinking about signing the Australian after the 2022 Formula 1 season. According to the report, there is a larger plan behind a possible Ricciardo commitment that would see Ricciardo join as a stop gap measure for the departing Lewis Hamilton, the Australian being a reserve driver for the 2023 season then 2024 a full race seat next to George Russell.
According to an unnamed source quoted by the Daily Mail, Ricciardo would serve as a kind of backup for the Silver Arrows, so that the team would not be caught cold by Hamilton’s retirement and suddenly find itself without a second driver.
Memories of suddenly finding themselves without a race driver are still very fresh in the minds of Toto Wolff when the 2016 F1 champion Nico Rosberg suddenly decided to up sticks and retire from the sport just before the next season’s winter testing started. The Austrian team boss having had to poach from Williams the Finnish driver Valterri Bottas, who then became Hamilton’s team mate.
Mercedes are not wishing to be caught out by a departing lead driver in Hamilton, and they are also looking even further forward with their junior driver programme in mind.
TJ13 reported some time ago that Mercedes are grooming a new sensation in the form of 16-year-old Andrea Kimi Antonelli, who is wowing everyone at the moment in Formula 4.
Wolff and co are currently looking to this young Italian driver as a potential F1 champion of the future but would be at least three or four years away joining the grid, so there is likely to be a gap between Hamilton’s departure and Antonelli’s arrival. READ MORE ON THIS STORY
Gwen Lagrue, driver development advisor for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team, has no shortage of compliments for the young Italian.
“Kimi (his nickname) is a phenomenon. He races for Kart Republic, Dino Chiesa’s team, which previously took care of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg about 20 years ago. ” explains Lagrue.
“We were really impressed with him – he is very mature for his young age, very patient and extremely intelligent.”
“He is fast, whatever the conditions, and I have never seen him make a stupid mistake. His love and passion for motorsport is obvious and he loves his races like I have never seen him do before.
“The way he runs, overtakes, builds his race weekend is very special and we are really looking forward to see him move to the car. “
But in the meantime, Mercedes would need a stop gap in the form of Ricciardo. That Ricciardo himself could be comfortable with a role as a substitute driver is something the veteran explained most recently at Zandvoort.
“I don’t want to be too proud and say I’m too good for that,” said the still-McLaren driver. He wants to “listen to everything” and then see “what makes sense“.
The problem for Ricciardo is that he can’t imagine moving to another racing series. A detour into the IndyCar series or Formula E is out of the question for him. Formula 1 is “the only thing I’m interested in at the moment,” he said last weekend.
At the same time, the Australian doesn’t mind disappearing from the limelight for a bit.
“There are also advantages to having a little more free time. The last 18 months have been more than challenging, so a little time away from the track would do me good,” he said recently, even flirting openly with a role as a reserve driver.
Ricciardo’s time at McLaren has been dire. Outclassed by a seriously talented youngster in Lando Norris, the Australian race winner has been made to look ordinary. Certainly, a reserve role would be seen as a nice break for the confidence battered veteran.