Despite the current Formula One elephant in the room (cost cap breach) a number other rolling stories from the 2022 season have progressed during the initial press conferences held prior to the US GP in Austin. Nicholas Latifi has hinted at his future racing opportunities and Carlos Sainz has given a candid assessment of why he’s been second best this season to his team mate Charles LeClerc.
One of the other big issues concerns the future of Daniel Ricciardo. The speculation on the popular Australian’s future has been huge in the media and particularly concerning the possibility of Ricciardo taking a year out of the sport.
Many have questioned the purpose for this given the opportunities for the 2024 F1 season appear little better than Ricciardo’s current options. Haas F1 team principal Gunther Steiner has all but publicly offered Daniel a 2023 seat alongside Kevin Magnussen and Williams would also be a shoe in given Latifi being released.
Ricciardo has talked about a “reset” and refreshing his mind before returning to F1 in 2024 and in a recent press conference described the last 18 months of his career at McLaren as “a grind”.
Mercedes have apparently offered Ricciardo a reserve driver role and not just for the silver arrows, but for all the Mercedes power unit customer teams.
When asked about having Ricciardo for a reserve team mate, Lewis Hamilton smiled and replied.
“I think he’s far too talented and he’s earned the right to be amongst us all racing. If he’s part of our team that’d be great, but a third role is not really what’s best for him.”
Hamilton believes Ricciardo should be racing
Hamilton added of the eight-time race-winner: “If I was managing him, he’d be racing.”
Daniel was asked again about his future during the driver press event in Austin.
“You will see me around,” Ricciardo said. “It’s going to look different for me, but there is still very much still a plan in place.
“So, it’s not that I am checking out and saying ‘see you later’, it’s far from that.
“I’m just putting in a plan to honestly try to get me back to the front of the grid and win races and do all the stuff I know I can do.”
Ricciardo is clearly hinting an announcement is imminent.
Ricciardo’s imminent announcement and plan
Yet the Aussie will have to explain when he reveals his ‘plan’ how that gets him back to “the front of the grid” and not just rejoining the F1 circus driving only for Haas, Williams or possibly Alfa Romeo.
Ferrari have LeClerc and Sainz locked in on deals that run into 2024 and beyond and as do Mercedes with George Russell. Lewis Hamilton’s contract expires at the end of 2023, but he has strongly indicated he wants to continue after that.
Its inconceivable Mercedes would not make Lewis an offer.
Reserv role to “stay connected”
Red Bull Racing have Sergio Pérez on a contract for 2023 with an option for 2024, though unless the Mexican has woeful season next year, Ricciardo returning to Red Bull and again becoming Verstappen’s team mate feels like a moonshot.
The only other two teams who could be considered remotely “front of the grid” are Alpine and McLaren and their driver pairings are locked in beyond the start of 2024.
To stay connected with F1 clearly the Mercedes role offers the Australian his best option at present if he refuses a seat at Haas or Williams and it will be fascinating to hear Daniel Riccardo’s plan to return to the front of the grid when he reveals all.
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