Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne will join the Aston Martin F1 team from the 2023 Formula 1 season as a reserve driver. This new signing sets McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo on his path to Mercedes AMG F1.
Vandoorne will join Brazilian Felipe Drugovich as a test and reserve driver, the pair matching their duties throughout next year’s calendar. In this role, Stoffel Vandoorne will undertake an intensive simulation and development programme at the team’s Silverstone facility. He will also fulfil his commitments to Aston Martin while competing in the new Formula E season, in which he will race for the DS Penske team in 2022/2023.
Happy to work with Alonso again
“It’s incredibly exciting to take on the role of reserve driver in Formula 1, and I’m delighted to be doing it with the Aston Martin team,” said Vandoorne.
“I’ve watched with great interest how the team has developed and expanded operationally, and I know how incredibly determined they are to progress in all areas.”
Joining Fernando [Alonso], who I already know from my Formula 1 career, and Lance [Stroll], to help them develop and improve next year’s car, will be a great job, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge – and the reward – of working with the whole Silverstone organisation.”
Vandoorne’s arrival could therefore mean the end of Nico Hülkenberg’s adventure with Aston Martin, although the team has not commented on this. The German is tipped to join the Haas team in 2023 as a regular driver.
Ricciardo to Mercedes as reserve driver next year
The news that Van Doorne is heading to Aston Martin means that Ricciardo will be almost certainly at Mercedes next year as a reserve driver, replacing Nyck de Vries’ who will be departing to AlphaTauri. As it stands, the Australian will not be driving a car next season after McLaren decided to recruit Oscar Piastri.
While he will leave the McLaren team at the end of the 2022 season following an amicable breach of contract with his employer over poor performance, Daniel Ricciardo finds himself at a dead end in the driver market with only one seat still available for 2023 at Haas, but the Australian veteran admitted this weekend that he had turned down said offer from Haas already.
Indeed, 2009 world champion Jensen Button doubted Daniel Ricciardo will be able to return to the F1 grid in 2024 if he is not driving for any team in 2023 saying he believed that “[Ricciardo] didn’t want to go too far down the grid and work with a team that was too far back,”
Button thinks that Ricciardo should’ve taken a race seat at Haas rather than go for a year off, or a reserve driver role.
“It’s difficult, but I still think it would have been a better decision for him. Go to a team, work hard, show people what you can do, in a car that maybe suits you a bit more, and people will forget what happened the year before.”
“That’s the problem now, because people forget how good Ricciardo is just because he had a year and a half or two difficult years.”
“But he has the talent, and in a car that suits him, he would show his talent and then he would have the opportunity to race again in a top team. But to stay out of it? People will remember what happened the year before. It’s tricky, and I find it hard to see him coming back to a competitive team after a year away.”
Ricciardo, on the other hand, disagrees.
“Being the third driver is where my head is at now”
Ricciardo wants to join a top team that will be able to offer him a front-running car. He has previously been linked with Red Bull to become the third driver but Mercedes is the more likely destination.
“Honestly, being the third driver is where my head is at right now. I feel like some time away from a racing seat will do me good, and then I’ll try to build something for 2024,
“Let’s just say I’m not done with F1 but it will look a bit different,” Ricciardo admitted last weekend.
The lack of tempting offers is a blessing in disguise according to Daniel Ricciardo. The former team-mate of Max Verstappen prefers to see the glass half full.
“Without a doubt, the last two years have been quite difficult, especially when you put a lot of effort into it and it doesn’t come, it can get you down. I know the value of a summer break, getting away gives you a different perspective. The way the seasons flow, it’s pretty relentless,
“You don’t really get a chance to rebuild. Everyone’s different, but I really think it’s a blessing in disguise. By doing less, I’ll get more,” he confessed.
Will Lewis Hamilton leave and give Ricciardo a race seat?
Ricciardo sees an opportunity to take a Mercedes seat in the next year or two, most likely Lewis Hamilton’s. This could be a drive too far in the future however with team boss Toto Wolff alluding to a contract extension for Hamilton. The British driver then unofficially confirmed an intention to stay at the team.
Lewis Hamilton’s current contract with Mercedes expires at the end of the 2023 season, but the seven-time world champion announced a few days ago that he intends to continue his adventure with the German manufacturer’s team by extending his contract by “several years”.
Wolff said that negotiations had not yet begun, but that Lewis Hamilton’s seat is in some way reserved for the British driver for the next few years.
“It’s 100 per cent his seat. We definitely want to finish the season and then find some calm over the winter [to discuss] like we did last year. He is much more than a driver for us now,” Wolff said in Mexico City last weekend.
That said, Wolff has been burned before by drivers suddenly leaving the team, namely when the 2016 champion Nico Rosberg suddenly left in the winter before the 2017 winter testing started, prompting the late signing of Valtteri Bottas. So having a race winner in reserve would be a card the Austrian team boss would enjoy having.
Wolff also admits that Hamilton staying with the team might not mean racing:
“Although we are not talking about an end to his career yet, it is also important to talk about his role as an ambassador for Mercedes and the many sponsors we have and the involvement he can have in a wider universe.”
Ricciardo will be best placed to take the seat should Hamilton step down from a driving role for Mercedes, and with Van Doorne’s move to Aston Martin announced today, the path is most certainly set for Ricciardo’s announcement to the German marque.