The ever jovial Daniel Ricciardo has a place in m most F1 observers hearts. Nicknamed, ‘The Honey Badger’ the Aussie driver has delighted fans around the world with his joie de vie and eccentric antics such as drinking the race winners champagne from his sweaty race boot. It’s called a ‘shoey.’
Whilst certain paddock observers feel Ricciardo has been harshly treated by McLaren who have sacked him with a year left on his contract, the reality is Danny could not get to grips with the ‘quirky’ McLaren car and the opportunity to move on sooner rather than later probably prolongs his F1 career.
Another disastrous year at McLaren in 2023 would have Ricciardo looking like yesterday’s man.
Ricciardo sets his stall out
The 8 time GP Aussie winner has indicated he will not race anywhere else other than F1 in the near future.
“It’s the only racing I’m interested in at this stage of my career. F1 is what I love and it’s where I see myself if I’m doing any racing,” the Aussie told assembled reporters in Monza.
“But if the stars don’t align and it doesn’t make perfect sense next year and if it means taking that time off to reset or re-evaluate, then if that’s the right thing to do then I’m willing to.”
Ricciardo appears to dismiss Williams and Haas
Daniel’s predicament is a result of unfortunate timing. The 2022-23 driver market shuffle was set to be a bit of a bore fest until Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement and Alonso jumped to fill his seat at Aston Martin.
But a number of significant drivers are out of contract at the end of 2023, which is why Ricciardo appears to be happy to play the long game.
Following the announcement prior to the Belgium GP that Daniel was leaving McLaren, the Aussie explained how he saw his near term F1 career developing.
“I want to do it in the right place. I’ve never said that I want to just be a driver to make up the numbers. If I’m here, I want to be here for purpose.”
This seemingly ruled him out of driving for the likes of Williams or Haas for a season until better opportunities open up for 2024.
There may be a seat at Alpha Tauri available as Alpine are targeting Pierre Gasley. Yet this would be the worst move for Ricciardo who raced for the same team in his junior F1 years branded as Torro Rosso before getting his break in the Big Bull Racing team in 2014.
Ricciardo’s opportunities for 2023 boil down to these choices. A seat at Alpine, Alpha Tauri. Haas or Williams, yet he still believes if he can’t get the Alpine drive a sabbatical is a better option.
Yet history shows F1 drivers taking a break never achieve as much as they did during they’re first stint in the sport.
Wins before the break – 91
Wins after the break – 0
Wins before the break – 44
Wins after the break – 7
Wins before the break – 18
Wins after the break – 3
Wins before the break – 30
Wins after the break – 1
Wins before the break – 17
Wins after the break – 8
Wins before the break – 12
Wins after the break – 0
Of course Lauda and Prost won world titles after their breaks, but the rest never achieved a ranking in their second sting in F1 above their first.
Haas court Ricciardo
Haas team look as though they will have a seat for 2023 given their lack of commitment to resigning Mick Schumacher and team principal Gunther Steiner revealed to RTL he would be happy to entertain Ricciardo as a replacement for 2023.
“In his situation, Daniel first has to decide for himself what he does,” Steiner observed.
“It makes little sense to persuade him to do something, he has to decide for himself.
“If he feels like it, he will certainly call, otherwise he will probably say, ‘I’ll do a sabbatical or something else’.”
Yet Ricciardo in Monza told assembled press.
“Could it still happen? It could. I guess I’m not getting too caught up in next year. Of course I want to race, I want to be on the grid, I want to be competing.
“But I’m not kind of seeing next year as all or nothing. Obviously 2024 is something I want to be aware of and look at.
“So that’s kind of where I’m like, if it means taking a step back to then take two steps forward, then that’s what we’re trying to figure out at the moment, me and my team. So that could be a year off.”
Haas have learned their lesson over recruiting junior drivers with Mazepin and Schumacher and now realise experienced drivers like Kevin Magnussen deliver them the results they need.
Experienced F1 drivers deliver points
Without Magnussen this year, Haas would be P9 in the constructors but at present they sit P7. Schumacher has failed to deliver more than half the points Magnussen has contributed and Steiner indicates they are looking for another experienced driver to replace the German.
When asked about Nico huklnberg as an option to replace Schumacher, Steiner commented: “A man like Nico brings experience.
“What can a driver do to make the team better and bring us to the top?
“How much risk do you want to take? With a young driver, you usually take more risks because you don’t know how far he can go.
“You can’t calculate that mathematically.”
With Hulkenberg or Ricciardo, Haas could realistically climb another place in the constructors championship next year and the financial rewards win prize money sadly far out way the sponsorship a young upstart brings.
Ricciardo needs to wake up and smell the roses. A sabbatical is a bad idea because the likes of De Vries and Pastri are coming and if they perform well that’s one less slot in 2024 for an experienced driver.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 24, 2022