Daniel Ricciardo has now confirmed he will not be driving in Formula One for the 2023 season. When the Aussie was dropped by McLaren there were opportunities at Alpine, Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams for him to continue his F1 career.
Ahead of the Belgian GP McLaren made the announcement Ricciardo would be leaving the team and the Aussie driver responded to questions from the assembled media.
“I still love the sport and I think through all of this, I guess you’d call it adversity, I haven’t lost that confidence in myself.”
Ricciardo refuses to “make up the numbers”
“We’ve had some tough weekends, and you can’t help but show emotion sometimes, but I still love it and I still want to do it competitively.
“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.
“I don’t know what that means yet for the future, but of course if it’s the right opportunity then this is where I want to be.”
Back then Riccciardo had a number of options and his comments about not just “making up the numbers” clearly indicated drive at Williams and possibly Alfa Romeo and Haas was not acceptable for Ricciardo.
Daniel hoped for Renault return
Of course at the time a return to Alpine was an option. Ricciardo raced for two season for the team (as Renault) before leaving for McLaren. Yet Alpine despite having an alleged shortlist of 14 at one point according to team boss Otmar Szafnauer never really considered bringing Daniel back to the Enstone team.
Szafnauer asked asked by The-Race.com whether Ricciardo was considered and if so why they did not pursue an 8 times experienced GP winner with 32 podiums in his career.
“Well, at the beginning we discussed with a few drivers, including Daniel,” revealed Otmar then mysteriously changes the subject.
“Pierre meets the criteria to a tee – he’s experienced, fast and young.
“So, when it became evident that Pierre was a possibility we made our shortlist even shorter.”
Why Alpine didn’t want Ricciardo
Clearly praising the youth as an advantage for Gasly is a red herring because Alpine’s outgoing driver Fernando Alonso is 7 yers older than the 33 year old Australian.
“Experienced” and “fast” also don’t explain Gasly’s advantage over Ricciardo. Daniel has more experience than Pierre and was so fast he forced Vettel out of Red Bull when Ferrari came calling.
So clearly there were other reasons Alpine chose not to engage Ricciardo for 2023.
It could be in the upper echelons of the Renault organisation, there were those still upset Ricciardo left them from McLaren in 2021. Further since his successful time with Renault Ricciardo has struggled and is driving for a team likely to finish behind Alpine this season.
Holding out for a “competitive” drive with Alpine may have been Ricciardo’s first mistake.
Alfa Romeo have now confirmed they are retaining their Chinese rookie driver Zhou Guanyu which now leaves just Haas and Willliams.
Neither team are what Ricciardo would consider “competitive” and he has now ruled himself out of an F1 drive for 2021.
Yet both Haas and Williams showed interest in sing the Australian with Gunther Steiner admitting he would be interested and wanted “no more inexperienced drivers”.
What does Daniel want for 2024?
So by rejecting Haas and Williams the latest on Ricciardo’s future is that he signs as a reserve driver for Mercedes. He could then stand in for any Williams, Aston Martin or Mercedes driver should they like Alex Albon recently be forced to miss a race.
Yet what exactly is Daniel Riccardo holding out for in 2024. Due to Vettel’s retirements a number of the seats that were to become available at the end of next season are now tied down.
Aston Martin have signed Fernando Alonso on a multi year deal and Lance Stroll son of the team’s owner is going nowhere soon.
Red Bull and Ferrari have both their drivers’ signed until at least the end of 2024 so unless Carlos Sainz or Sergio Pérez have a shocker – like Ricciardo at McLaren – there’s no room at the Milton Keynes or Maranello inns.
Danny’s options are just the same
George Russell is on a multi year deal and despite Lewis Hamilton’s current contract expiring before 2024, the 7 times champion has indicated he wants to continue with Mercedes – which is an absolute shoe in.
Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly are also on multi-year deals with Alpine who have rejected Ricciardo this season anyway.
Having started his Red Bull career at Toro Rosso Ricciardo is hardly likely to see a return to the Fianza based team a “competative” move.
So this broadly leaves the same ‘less competitive’ teams who were an opportunity for Ricciardo when he was sacked.
Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams. Yet Ricciardo chose a sabbatical over joining these three.
Audi F1 are coming
However, Alfa Romeo have under performed this season and the team had a positive effect rejuvenating Valterri Bottas career when Mercedes released him.
Further the Swiss based outfit have a deal in the pipeline to become the Audi works team and for a new manufacturer entering Formula One, experienced drivers bring a lot to the party.
Alfa’s rookie driver Zhou has only been given a one year extension for 2023, so it may be if he fails to deliver by the end of next season his time will have come and gone.
Ricciardo: Reserve Mercedes driver
Ricciardo’s latest thoughts on his future came at the Japanese GP.
“I know that if I choose to take a reserve role or not race next year, nothing’s guaranteed. So that comes at a risk, but that’s what we are weighing up. At this stage, especially with a top team, there are no guarantees.”
The problem for the loveable Daniel is Formula One history is littered with drivers taking a year or two out and despite one or two notable exceptions, most rarely return and if so they do with a team that is “uncompetitive” to coin Ricciardo’s own words.
Daniel Ricciardo may look back in years to come and rue not joining Williams for a season or two, because as Fernando Alonso has proven – being in Formula One even with a team not contending titles or race wins is better than being sat on the sidelines.